This time of year, we often hear stories of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Occasionally we hear the story of her relative, John the Baptist’s mother, Elizabeth. At the start of Advent this year, I read all the verses about Elizabeth and learned a few new things about her story that gave me new insights to this season.
Advent is a time of waiting. Waiting is hard. We are an impatient lot. Some days waiting 5 seconds for a web page to load seems heavy. God doesn’t waste time. What are some Advent lessons in our waiting?
Waiting is a Time to Bless – Elizabeth’s Story
The Book of Luke tells us Elizabeth was an older woman married to Zechariah, a member of the Jerusalem priesthood. She was past menopause, her husband was elderly, and she had given up hoping for a child. But Elizabeth’s life took an unexpected turn. She became pregnant to the amazement of all.
Wow! Her prayer had been answered after she had given up all help. She had to have mixed feelings. Amazement, overwhelm. Reminds me of the saying to watch what you pray for – God may just answer it. I wonder if she was a little bit embarrassed to be carrying a child so late in life. I bet people around her talked. I imagine some shook their heads in disapproval.
Speaking of talking, you may remember when the angel visited her husband, Zechariah, he didn’t believe it at first, so his ability to talk was taken away until after the baby birth.
He couldn’t talk to Elizabeth. I imagine she felt pretty alone, isolated during this time of waiting for the birth of her baby. Actually verse 24 in Luke 1 tells us: “After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion.”
Elizabeth’s pregnancy brought her solitude, loneliness, and time with her thoughts. When Mary arrived expectant and unexpectedly, I would think Elizabeth would have her own needs spill out for comfort.
But I never noticed before until this year that the first words out of Elizabeth’s mouth when Mary walked into her home were words of blessing:
“You are the most blessed of women, and your child will be blessed.”
If this were me, I would have blurted out something about what I needed. Maybe I would have bombarded Mary with questions out of my own anxiety. This surprising reunion brought forth all sorts of emotions: joy, fear, wonder. But Elizabeth demonstrates the power of offering a blessing in a time of waiting.
We should be ready to give a blessing. Waiting is a time we can bless others. For us to speak words of blessing to others, we must spend time with God who blesses. It requires time in prayer and time in scripture. People are so hungry for someone to bless them.
Elizabeth’s words of blessing to Mary caused Mary to break out in praise to God (Luke 2:46-55). I image she sang these words as an expression of her worship and praise. Beautiful and powerful words of praise.
Think about when you are in a time of waiting: don’t focus so much on yourself, look around. Who could you bless?
Waiting is a time to bless.
Waiting is a Time to Become – Elizabeth’s Role
The second lesson I learned this year when studying these verses is waiting is a time of becoming. God uses our time of waiting for a reason, to shape us specific roles and purposes. God doesn’t waste time, even times of waiting.
Look closely at the timing in the verses found in Luke 1: 26:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,
That 6th month belongs to Elizabeth. She is 6 months pregnant when the angel appears to Mary who goes right after this to Elizabeth.
Verse 56: And Mary remained with her about three months.
Mmmmm. 6 months plus 3 months equals 9 months, a significant number for pregnancy, isn’t it? I really think Mary was there for the birth of John the Baptist.
Remember Mary was young possibly only 13 or 14. This make me think of the the line from Gone in the Wind – “I don’t know nothing about birthing any babies.”
This time of waiting for Mary became at time of becoming. She learned about pregnancy, learned about birth, learned about taking care of an infant, and quite possible about being a wife and a mother. She learned this as she waited.
This time of waiting was a time of preparation for her own time.
God provided Elizabeth to Mary as a kind of spiritual mentor who would encourage her and teach her. God gave Elizabeth to Mary for a special period of time and a special purpose.
Through Mary and Elizabeth’s relationship, God must have done some faith-strengthening for both of them I believe Mary left Elizabeth’s home a stronger and more confident woman in her faith and in her future.
Waiting is a time of becoming. It is not time of doing nothing. It is a time when God shapes us, prepares us, teaches us for what is coming next in life.
Waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.
Waiting is a time of becoming.
Waiting is a Time to Behold and Be Loved – What Elizabeth Teaches Us
Third lesson I noticed is waiting doesn’t always bring answers; it may bring more questions. Waiting is a time to spend time with God listening. Waiting is a time to behold God and beloved.
Elizabeth must have been a deep woman of faith. She had to courage and self-esteem to look outside of herself to bless Mary, She has the insight to know her baby recognized Mary’s baby who was probably only a few weeks along at this time.
I never noticed before the simple description in verse 43:
“ And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?”
Elizabeth wonders out loud why “the mother of my Lord” would come to visit her. How could Elizabeth know that Mary’s child was the Lord? We don’t know for sure but I think she learned this through prayer and listening to God. The power of the Holy Spirit upon her gave her special knowledge of Mary’s condition, and blessedness, and faith.
Waiting is hard. But during these time of not being sure, on unanswered prayer, or feeling isolated, we can sure God has not abandoned us. He stays with us. He invites us nearer. He wants us to spend time with him, listening in scriptures, worship and prayer.
Waiting, living with questions, may be how God is keeping us attentive. From my experience, God is more generous in giving us questions than answers. God continues to be with us during our times of waiting and uses these times to invite us nearer. To lean on him for strength. To listen and wait with him.
Life is full of waiting. Advent is a time of waiting and we can learn lesson about waiting with Elizabeth and Mary.
Waiting isn’t empty time – quite an active time. Waiting teaches us to bless, to become, to behold God and be loved him.
What does the story of Elizabeth and Mary teach you? What are some lessons you have learned while waiting?