While I was between college and the military draft in the mid-1960s, I lived and worked in New York City. One Saturday as I was walking to the subway, an astonishing thing happened. I was making my way through the complex and crowded station at Rockefeller Center when I suddenly recognized a close friend from college days. We were both overcome with joy. The last time we had seen each other was at school in Colorado, but we had lost touch. Neither of us knew that the other had found his way to New York. We enjoyed a great day reminiscing and experiencing the city together.
But for all its surprise and happiness, that “chance” meeting was nothing compared with a meeting in one of my favorite stories in Scripture:
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:39-43)
How astonishing that John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb recognized Jesus in Mary’s womb. And how surprising that Elizabeth immediately grasped the significance of being in the presence of “my Lord” and his mother. Each experienced a profound recognition through spiritual insight. As e.e. cummings exclaimed, “now the eyes of my eyes are opened.”
Diana Culbertson writes that all spiritual experience “begins with recognition.” But for recognition to cause the kind of joy that Elizabeth and John experienced, there must be a history or a pattern of events that forms a context. For Elizabeth, the history that led up to this recognition of “my Lord” was centuries upon centuries of longing for the Messiah that formed the grand but anguished story of Israel.
Culbertson writes, “The experience of recognition is the central humanizing and revelatory experience, the immediate cause of psychological and spiritual change.” In other words, this quality of recognition, this leap of insight, is crucial to our spiritual transformation.
As you enter this Advent season, what personal history do you carry to be blessed by the approaching Messiah? What are your profound “hopes and fears of all the years” that might bring a new recognition of your Lord—one in which the eyes of your eyes are opened, one that could cause in you a transforming leap of joy?
 Diana Culbertson, The Poetics of Revelation (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press), 1989, p.14
 Ibid., p.9
Don Simpson is a certified spiritual director in Colorado Springs and is senior editor at NavPress. He is coauthor with Dallas Willard of Revolution of Character (NavPress, 2005). He also participated in launching Discipleship Journal and The Small Group Letter, and was cofounder of Helmers & Howard, Publishers.