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.
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.