Who Was Elizabeth in the Christmas Story?
- Janet Thompson Founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring
- 2013 16 Dec
You’ve probably read the story many times of Mary’s visit from the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:26-45. It’s an amazing revelation to a young teenage girl that she is to become the mother of the Messiah. But there is another parallel story told in these verses—the story of the mentoring relationship between Mary and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist who would become the forerunner of Jesus. The passage in Luke uses the reference point that Elizabeth was six month’s pregnant, and hers too was a miracle pregnancy since she was an elderly woman.
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.—Luke 1:26-34
Mary Visits Elizabeth
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
Elizabeth Makes Time for Mary
Gabriel gave Mary a shocking message from the Lord, However, Mary also received the second part of the message that her elderly relative Elizabeth was in a similar circumstance, and that Mary would find comfort and reassurance in spending time with her.
Gabriel’s mention of Elizabeth compelled Mary to go to her immediately, no matter what the inconvenience, time, energy, or sacrifice. Mary did not stop to count the cost, consider the hardships of the travel, analyze if that was really what the Lord meant, or worry about how it would affect her schedule, or wonder if Elizabeth was too old to relate to her.
Mary also didn’t send a message to Elizabeth that Elizabeth should come visit her—after all, she was carrying the Messiah. No, Luke 1:39 says, “Mary got ready and hurried” to Elizabeth’s house. Young Mary seemed to know that she needed Elizabeth, and Elizabeth might need her.
From Elizabeth’s response at Mary’s arrival, it doesn’t seem like Elizabeth worried or fretted that the house was a mess, or she was out of coffee and cookies, or that she looked a sight and her husband, Zechariah, really wasn’t himself these days since he couldn’t speak after doubting God. She didn’t tell Mary that there were a million things to do to get ready for her own new baby, so this probably wasn’t a good time for Mary’s visit. She wasn’t repulsed that her unwed, pregnant, teenage relative was on her doorstep. Instead, she joyfully welcomed Mary and they had a blessed reunion!
How Does the Story of Mary and Elizabeth Apply to Us?
Today, our lives are so busy we sometimes feel we don’t have time to invest in true friendships and relationships. We fill our days with work, soccer games, church activities, house cleaning, shopping, errands—you know the routine. All good, necessary things. Yet how much of our day do we also fill with TV viewing, Internet browsing, and shopping for things we really don’t need that cause us to work more to acquire and maintain?
Mentors and mentees often complain that the hardest part of their relationship is finding time in their busy lives to meet, even though they know it would benefit them both. Others report that when they surrender their schedule to the Lord, He seems to give them more time and energy in their day to accomplish all the things he knows are important. Just like Elizabeth and Mary, God will work miracles in our relationship, if we just give Him the time.
We would love to hear about your “Elizabeth and Mary” experiences. Please share in the comments so others can be blessed.
Spend time with someone 20 years older and you’ll leave wiser!
Spend time with someone 20 years younger and you’ll leave energized!
Sections of this post are excerpts from Janet Thompson’s Face-to-Face with Elizabeth and Mary: Generation to Generation. Please visit Janet on: Woman to Woman Mentoring, facebook, linkedin, pinterest, and twitter.
Publication date: December 16, 2013