From Luke 1…Contemporary English Version
“…Soon after that, his (Zechariah) wife was expecting a baby, and for five months she did not leave the house. She said to herself ‘What the Lord has done for me will keep people from looking down on me.'” (Vs 24-25)
“…When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, her baby moved within her. The Holy Spirit came upon Elizabeth. Then in a loud voice she said to Mary: God has blessed you more than any other woman! He has also blessed the child you will have. Why should the mother of my Lord come to me? As soon as I heard your greeting, my baby became happy and moved within me. The Lord has blessed you because you believed that he will keep his promise.” (Vs 39-45)
I am still thinking of Zechariah’s family, and especially Elizabeth. I have a special affinity with her, perhaps because I feel I can understand some the emotions she has to be feeling.
Elizabeth doesn’t show her face in public for the first five months of her pregnancy. Here is a woman that has been barren in times when your kids were your greatest assets. In a lot of ways having children was the main purpose of the women and to not produce the house full of heirs was shameful. There is a certain joy in the fact that she’s going to be able to “show ’em”. So human. There also is probably some personal insecurity that she is trying to get beyond. She probably questioned her own worth over the years as a result of her infertility. What will happen when everyone knows her news? If times are like now, when there will be joking about her sex life (“Go Zechariah!”) and a bit of gossip because she is going to be an older mom. (“Really? She’s bringing a child into the world at this age?”). Interesting that as she starts showing, a time when in many cultures women go into hiding, she goes back out into the world.
And then there is Mary, a member of Elizabeth’s family. When Gabriel tells Mary she will be the mother of Jesus, he also tells her Elizabeth is five months along in her pregnancy. The same time that Elizabeth starts to show back up in public. Coincidence? I doubt it. One of Gabriel’s points to Mary is that “nothing is impossible with God.” I guess it takes everyone a bit of time to come to terms with impossible. Maybe five months. Mary hears the news about Elizabeth (and herself) and shortly afterward heads to check it all out herself.
I love that during Mary’s visit, it says the spirit moves Elizabeth and she talks “in a loud voice”. The voice we use when we are trying to get through to someone, especially our clueless younger relatives. I figure that at this time Mary is still in a state of disbelief….a place of doubt. A place of “are you sure you mean me, God?” Elizabeth has been thinking on this sort of thing for five months. She shares what she has learned. She answers Mary’s why….told her she was over-thinking it and the answer was not that complicated…simply that Mary believed. There must have been a purity of faith in Mary. I don’t think she was sophisticated or even necessarily “special” as far as the world saw her. I don’t think she was the obvious choice, and most certainly not to herself. But yet she was the one chosen. Once again, our mortal and insufficient faith is all God needs as a vessel. You don’t have to be the obvious choice. Awe-inspiring when you think about it.
Elizabeth seems to me to be a great type of family member/friend to have. Those who know you, listen, see your doubts, and kick you in the rear so you move to where you need to be. She didn’t pretty up her language, she just told her the way it was. Loudly. She understood being used when you don’t feel ready. She was living it, too. Who better to have an idea of what Mary is going through? In the way her son John would go before Mary’s son Jesus, Elizabeth goes before Mary in her very special pregnancy.
God doesn’t wait until we feel we are ready to be used by him….he uses us even when we feel inadequate to the task. He doesn’t need us to be smart, or educated, or beautiful, or strong, or have amazing skills….he seems to move both in our doubts and in our childlike belief. If we believe him, even sort of, we can see him work in us and through us.
And if, like Elizabeth and Mary, we hang in there in spite of our circumstances, in spite of our heartbreak, in spite of all the things we come to expect about ourselves and the possibilities of our lives, he just may blow us out of the water when he works through us. The simple people. He is a God that constantly defies expectations. He is a God of amazing surprises. At just the right time throughout your life you will be given amazing, marvelous gifts. God-sized gifts. Gifts of Jesus-sized proportion. But sometimes gifts that require you to take action to receive them fully. God is the battery that is not included. We must insert it for it to work.
When it gets down to it, with all we have seen so far, why don’t we really believe in God? This is the God that created the heavens and the earth. This is the God that created the crazy and unique beings that are us. This is the God who changed everything so we could have a relationship with him. What if these are not his only feats? What if more is coming? What if you are going to be a part of it? When you think “impossible”, keep your eyes open. God’s work isn’t finished yet. He is alive and well and he so loves to re-define your definition of that word. The gift of Jesus is not a one day event. It is to be continued….so stay tuned. And Merry Christmas!