Advent Series Day 20: sharing our lives

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. – Luke 1:56

This verse in between the Magnificat and the birth of John the Baptist is easy to miss. But we should pay attention to it. Luke is giving us an important perspective on the visit of Mary to Elizabeth. It relates back to the timeline given in verse 26:

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth.”

Elizabeth and Mary’s culture was oriented towards family and hospitality. We are in a different place and time, which changes our perspective. But, I still find it striking that Elizabeth had a houseguest for the last three months of her pregnancy. Though it may have been extra help, it was also another mouth to feed, another person in her space during the most uncomfortable stages of bloating and fatigue, and another person witnessing her awkward daily interactions with a husband who could not talk.

Yet, Elizabeth welcomed her guest. Elizabeth shared her life.

When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him. – Luke 1:5-66

All who were near the birth of John seem to have been stirred by it. They felt joy, awe, and wonder. It was obvious that this birth was significant. And Mary was there to witness it.

Mary saw how Elizabeth handled her pregnancy. Mary saw how Zechariah and Elizabeth trusted God. Mary saw how the words of the angel to Zechariah came true. Mary saw how Zechariah’s tongue was loosened when John was named. Mary saw how that name, John, meaning “Yahweh is gracious,” came true even in the feelings stirred in others at the time of John’s birth.

What confirmation this must have been to Mary. What wonderful preparation for what would happen to her next. What a beautiful gift of grace.

I’m so glad that Elizabeth and Zechariah were willing to share their home with her.

We are only a few days from Christmas now. Days when we share our homes with family and friends. Sometimes this sharing can be a burden. But it has so much potential for more.  

Sharing space can be an opportunity to share our lives. We can share our joy as we share our blessings. We can share stories of what God has done and stand in awe of how He is actively sharing His grace with the world. We can even share our burdens, and remember how God shares His grace with use through community.

Christmas is, indeed, a time for sharing.

Advent Series Day 18: confirmation

… Then the angel left her. – Luke 1:38

What would you be thinking in that moment, if you were Mary?

An angel has just interrupted your ordinary day to let you know that you will be the mother of the Messiah. How do you get up from that conversation? Do you tell someone? Who? How would you even begin to explain?

Do you start to doubt whether it was real or your imagination?

I don’t know whether Mary has those kinds of questions, but I’m pretty sure I would. And so, God graciously provides Mary with confirmation.

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? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” –Luke 1:39-45

Mary’s trip to visit Elizabeth would have taken her several days. I wonder what she thinks about during that time. What does she expect when she gets to Elizabeth? Is Mary planning to tell Elizabeth about the angel’s visit? What is she planning to say?

If Mary has a speech planned, she doesn’t get to say it. It is Elizabeth who is first to speak. And in what Elizabeth declares, there is confirmation for both of these women.

Zechariah had seen an angel who had said his son would be the forerunner to the Messiah. Though he lost his power of speech, it seems likely that Zechariah would have attempted to communicate this message to his wife. Especially after she becomes pregnant. But still, Elizabeth wasn’t there. Does she believe Zechariah? Do they both wonder about who the Messiah would be? Or whether their son would really be such a mighty prophet?

Elizabeth now has her answers. Her son has such a special role to play, and such an amazing connection to the Holy Spirit, that he recognizes from within the womb that the Messiah is coming. And that He is coming through Mary.

Mary has her answers, too. She did not imagine things. She really would give birth to the Messiah. Elizabeth recognizes it before Mary even speaks.

I cannot imagine the joy felt by both of them at this meeting.

Confirmation is a beautiful gift.

God gives us this gift, too. We just have to look a little harder to find it. (After all, I would expect that with the most important event in world history, God would be a little more obvious than usual.)

We need to have the eyes to see the coincidences that are actually not twists of fate after all.

Like when I start to feel a pull from the Holy Spirit to do something new, but nerve-wracking. And then I just so happen to get encouragement from someone, affirming the very gifts I have sense God wanting me to use. Or when I feel convicted to talk to someone about something and that person just so happens to call. Or when I have been feeling like the path I am on needs to change, and a door that I was going to go through just so happens to close.

Confirmation. It comes because of the wonder of the Holy Spirit. The wonder of a Sovereign God who is working not only in us, but also in the community of people around us. The wonder of a God whose Spirit is both omnipresent and present within individuals. The wonder of a God who is not restricted to one way of telling us something.

Mary and Elizabeth receive the gift of confirmation. The Messiah is on His way.