And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:35-37).
While it may not be obvious at first reading, the clear implication from this narrative is that there was two women who conceived children by the power of the Holy Spirit, not just one. We are, of course, very familiar that Mary was a virgin who never had known a man and never had children. The explicit statement of the angel was that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit. This divine intervention would bring about a new life which would be impossible apart from the power of His presence.
It would also appear that there was a divine intervention with Mary’s relative Elizabeth in her conception of John. This first conception (Elizabeth) was not about the incarnation of the Second person of the Godhead but we are told that Elizabeth was barren and advanced in age. Simply put both Zacharias and Elizabeth were well beyond the proper age of having children. They had lived an exemplary life, both being “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all of the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (1:6). But in spite of that they had no children. How else would conception take place unless the Holy Spirit intervened and miraculously enabled Zacharias and Elizabeth to conceive at all?
John would be the messenger, Jesus was the message. John would pave the way but Jesus was the way. John proclaimed Jesus and Jesus presented himself to John in baptism. John came neither eating nor drinking and he was accused of having a demon (Matt. 11:18). Jesus came eating and drinking and was accused of being a glutton and drunkard (Matt. 11:19). Both were unique in that both came into this world by the direct intervention of the Spirit of God. They stepped into humanity by divine appointment according to God’s divine purpose. Jesus called John the greatest who ever lived but Jesus was the greatest who ever lived. Two individuals who, in their own way were inseparable in God’s purpose.
The way they both lived was a demonstration of the power and presence of the Spirit of God. John was this counter-cultural prophet who pushed hard against the spiritual hardness of the culture. He was bold, aggressive and forthcoming with all. He challenged the Pharisees and Scribes. He confronted Herod about having his brother’s wife. He lived counter-culture to challenge the opulence of riches (Matt. 11:8). John was not really a social justice guy but he did not shy away from issues either. His primary task was to prepare Israel for their Messiah. Jesus was … well He was Jesus, Messiah.
In some ways, we have a similar role to John. I wonder if we have any sense that God might have us here for a divine purpose, not the same as John but similar to it. We ought to live in such a way that is often counter to the culture, challenging the hypocrisy of religion and confronting (at times) the immorality of the world. That being said, our real mission is to prepare others in this broken world to receive Jesus. We may find ourselves in similar problems when we have the courage and boldness to stand in the gap and challenge those kinds of issues. Sometimes that has to happen in order for people to realize the Messiah of Israel is also the Savior of the world. There are many things we may get involved in our world; sometimes that gets us entangled in things we may not be planning on. But the real ministry we have is to live our life in such a way that we prepare people to receive the King. I hope that this Christmas reignites our passion as ambassadors for Christ.