Church father Saint Gregory Nazianzen said, “What has not been assumed has not been healed.” He was highlighting the Biblical teaching that Christ our Lord took on our whole human nature. He is 100% Man. If He were not, then doubt would arise whether He had truly paid for all human sin.
We can apply this to the angels. Christ did not become angelic in order to redeem angels. If so, then satan and his demons could hope for salvation. But Christ did not become angel. He became Man.
What if Christ came to earth but did not live as a regular man? What if He, for instance, never ate or drank, never was tired, or never felt any emotion? Such a coldly emotionless being would be hardly human. We are living, breathing, feeling beings. If Christ was not that way, we would reasonably doubt the salvation He came to bring.
Or what if He sprang into being as a fully grown adult, without ever passing through childhood or being born? Then the incarnation of Christ would not be like our human lives. So we would have to wonder if we were truly redeemed by Him.
He had to become like us in every way except for sin. So He did not scorn the Virgin’s womb. He willingly took flesh there, regular human flesh such as all people have.
For we all first pass through the stage known as pregnancy or gestation. No human being skips that step. Even if a person could somehow be created in an artificial womb in a laboratory, there still would be a womb, and there would still be the roughly nine months of development that precedes birth.
When this goes awry, as in premature births, it creates difficulty and threatens life. Clearly, nine months are the healthy and proper amount, give or take a little. The womb is the beginning of the human journey.
So in our Reading, we find Christ near the very beginning of following our journey. How strange and wonderful that the God of the universe became a tiny, fleshly organism! He did not cease existing for nine months, but He contained His glory inside human flesh by becoming Man inside Mary. As Elizabeth said to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” So according to Elizabeth, Mary IS the mother of the Lord, not she-who-would-eventually-become mother of the Lord. The Lord is already there in her womb.
Later Zechariah would testify to the same fact when he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us ...” The “horn of salvation” is none other than Christ. John, who had just been born when Zechariah spoke, was not from the house of David, but the house of Levi. The Horn of salvation is the One who was promised of old, the prophesied Messiah who would save us from our enemies, sin, death, and the devil. But the Messiah was not yet born. He was still about six months from birth. Yet Zechariah speaks of Christ as already there. He said, “The Lord God … HAS raised up a horn of salvation.” The Lord had already come. He was residing in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
All this agrees with the Creeds. The Lord Jesus Christ became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary. He was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit. The One in her, the blessed Fruit of her womb, was the Lord, the Son of God, and no other.
The first human to recognize the coming of Christ in Mary was neither Elizabeth nor Zechariah. If you do not count God or angels or Mary, the first to recognize was John the Baptist. Of course, he was not the Baptist yet because when he recognized Christ he was still in the womb of Elizabeth. When John heard Mary’s greeting, he leapt for joy. He did not leap because of Mary, but because of Christ. It is not that Mary is this most holy and exalted person so John had to leap at her voice. As she was soon to confess, she was lowly and humble. No, he leaps because his Lord, the most holy and exalted person ever, had come. That was the whole reason for John’s conception and birth: so that he would be a herald to proclaim the coming of Christ. It started here, at his leap in the womb.
Already, Christ our Lord was spreading joy at His gracious presence. He was already exalting the lowly, not just Mary but also the little ones, the babies not yet born. John was a confessor of the Lord before anyone else. To a fetus, the Lord gives this honor. The first emotional outburst that resulted from Christ’s coming was unseen but felt.
Christ did not send Mary to the great and mighty of the land. He did not make kings bow down before Mary. He did not seek out the wise or those known for their religious zeal. He did not seek homage at the Temple. Instead He accepts the tiny, fluttering movements of His cousin John. As He so often does, He chose the lowly and the weak.
And the mightiest of all was the tiny Christ, containing His omnipotence and omnipresence within a microscopic body. He was smaller than John. By all appearances (if you could see within Mary’s womb at that moment) Christ was nothing but a helpless blob of human cells, as we all were once. Yet this was the Almighty God. Here was the One who fills the whole universe, yet was found in microscopic form on this day recorded by Luke.
Wonder of wonders! Why would He do such an odd thing? Because of His mercy toward you and all sinners. He assumed all that He desired to heal. You are a human being who lived in your mother for nine months, give or take. So He became that as well. In the same way, He became a baby who learned to walk. He became a teenager. He experienced hardship and pain and sorrow. He felt joy, as John did. For you, He felt and lived and was just like you, except for sin.
This is what the mercy of the Lord looks like: a human being who is also God; a clump of human cells who is the Almighty Creator; a Baby who was conceived and born, yet had no beginning.
And when the mighty took on weakness in Mary, it was time to exalt us weak ones. When the holy One was a sinless Baby, the time was soon coming when we who were conceived and born in sin would be covered with the righteousness of God.
For He also would assume our death. He would take upon Himself not only the last breath that comes to each person under Adam’s curse. He would also take on the punishment that we deserved, which is the agony of hell. The immortal One took death, so that we who were doomed to death would live forever.
Then He took our resurrection. That is not part of our human life yet, but soon enough it will be. Since He was raised, we shall be, too.
But the first step was the incarnation in the Blessed Virgin’s womb. The beginning of the journey was conception. In the most unseen and humble beginning, the Son of God began His mighty work of salvation for us.
In His Name and to His glory. Amen.
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