While out thoughts are knee-deep in Christmas, let’s explore an account that often goes unnoticed amongst the shepherds, manger, angels, and such. It’s Mary’s trip to visit her relative, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth and her priest husband, Zechariah, live in the hill country of Judea. Their story is quite intriguing and can be found in Luke 1. In summary, Elizabeth (like Sarah, Hannah, and others) is devastated because she has been unable to have a child, something akin to a curse in her day. Zechariah serves his yearly one-week turn at the Temple in Jerusalem. While there, he is dumbfounded (read Luke 1 to get the pun) to discover that his wife is going to have a baby in her old age. We later learn that this child is none other than John, as in John the Baptist.
Sure enough, old Elizabeth does become pregnant! And gives credit where credit is due.
25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:25
Six months later, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary, revealing to her that she will bear a son and name him Jesus. He will, in essence, be the Messiah that Israel has longed for. Mary is startled and confused, but Gabriel satisfies her questions.
35 “The Holy Spirit will come upon you… and he will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35
The angel goes on to say,
36 “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God. ” Luke 1:36
Mary makes a trip to the hill country to visit Elizabeth. Zechariah is the first one to the door and as soon as Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice, baby John leaps in her womb.
41b …and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:41b
Elizabeth excitedly tells about her baby leaping for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice. She goes on to pronounce blessing over Mary.
42 In a loud voice she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” Luke 1:42
Two women – one old, one young. Both are told they will bear a son with a specific name and specific callings. One son will prepare the way for the other. Both women are filled with the Holy Spirit. Both have their callings confirmed by each other. Two miracles takes place because “Nothing is impossible with God.”
Yet another reason for us to give thanks and praise during this season. We, too, can look back and see God at work in our own lives: affirming us, encouraging us, revealing his Holy Spirit, and at times, accomplishing what seems impossible. Think back on your year. How have you seen God at work in your life?
Next week, on Christmas day, we will hear a testimony from one of the Bethlehem shepherds.