Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

How Elizabeth Started the Christmas Story, Not Mary

  • Mark Weimer
  • Updated Dec 09, 2020
How Elizabeth Started the Christmas Story, Not Mary

Something was stirring (and it wasn't a mouse) well before the angel appeared to Mary. The miracles of the Savior's coming weren't restricted to His own life. Here is how Elizabeth started the Christmas story.

Who Was Elizabeth in the Christmas Story?

Elizabeth lived a little over 2,000 years ago by the city of Jerusalem in Israel. Jerusalem was already at this time a very old city - over 1,500 years old. It was the home of the Jewish people, and at the center of Jerusalem was the temple - the place where they worshipped God.

Elizabeth lived with her husband Zechariah, who served as a priest in the temple. This godly couple had one great sorrow - they had no children, because Elizabeth was unable to have children, and they were both well along in years.

For any couple wanting children, the inability to conceive can be heartbreaking. However, at this time in Israel, it was doubly heartbreaking, because children - particularly sons - were the way in which the family line was carried on.

Why Didn't the Husband of Elizabeth Believe in Miracles?

One day, it came to pass that Zechariah, in his priestly duties, was chosen to go into the temple to burn incense. This was a great honor, and while he was inside all the assembled worshippers were praying outside.

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared before Zechariah. "when Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous - to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.'

"Zechariah asked the angel, 'How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.'"

Even when an angel appeared to him, Zechariah did not believe - he wanted to know how he could be sure. Before we are too hasty in judging Zechariah, how would you and I respond? Would we respond in faith - or respond in doubt?

"The angel answered, 'I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.'

"Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

"When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 'The Lord has done this for me,' she said. 'In these days He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.'"

How Did Elizabeth Start the Christmas Story?

Just imagine Elizabeth's joy. Not being able to have children in those days was a disgrace, and God had finally removed her disgrace. He had accomplished it miraculously by allowing her to become pregnant when she was quite old. And now she was to have the joy of a son - and not just any son, but a son who would go on to prepare the way before the coming of the Lord. His name? History would know him as John the Baptist.

Excerpted from The Nativity: The True Story of Christmas, by Mark Weimer. Published by LifeConneXions, the publishing group of Campus Crusade for Christ, 2006.
All Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version.
 Used with permission.


This article is part of our larger Christmas and Advent resource library centered around the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ!

What Is Christmas? Understanding History, Origin, and Traditions
The History of Santa Claus: Origin of St. Nicholas & Christmas Traditions
Christmas Prayers and Blessings

The Beautiful Meaning and Purpose of Advent
Advent Prayers
Advent Wreath & Candles - History, Meaning, and Tradition
The History and Meaning of the Advent Calendar