“She is the first to confess Jesus as Lord, the first to recognize the divine Word in the mortal womb of Mary.”
She shares my middle name, but not much else. She was born into a family of priests and was the wife of one. Most of her life’s years were behind her, though she had no child to take care of her and her aging husband Zechariah. The first thing we know after being introduced to her is that she is righteous in the sight of God, a blameless keeper of all the commands and requirements of the Lord. So we know it wasn’t her sin that kept her barren, though that’s what most of the market women said.
What a shock to have your husband come home from work unable to speak, and then a few weeks later to realize that the impossible had happened—pregnancy! But Elizabeth did not question, as Zechariah had, paying for his doubt with nine months of silence. And she did not laugh, as Sarah had, hiding behind the tent folds. She simply knew he had seen a vision there in the temple. Something, or Someone, had appeared in the clouds of incense, and now there was life bulging within her. Of course she could not help but think of the women of the Torah and the Writings, women whose empty disgrace had been removed by a miracle. But there were few miracles from God in these days. What could be the occasion of such favour?
For five months she kept her pregnancy secret. They were quiet months, anticipating months. Then in her sixth month, when she could no longer hide the life within, she had a visitor.
She had sent word to one of her young relatives that she was pregnant. Mary had always held a special place in her heart. Elizabeth had invited Mary to visit her in her seclusion, but Mary was busy with preparations for life as a married woman. Elizabeth remembered well the days of her own betrothal, sewing for her dowry and dreaming of a home full of children. But then she received a troubled message from Mary, saying her betrothed was threatening to divorce her. Strange things were happening in the family.
When Mary visited as a child, she would always call out a greeting from the gate below the house. This time, when Mary called out, Elizabeth felt a great and sudden movement in her womb, as if the child were leaping up to open the door for Mary. Elizabeth felt the rush of a breeze sweep past her, through her, when Mary entered. Suddenly she felt like shouting, like dancing for joy. She ran to Mary, grasping her hands and then her flat belly. The words spilled out of her mouth:
“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?”1
And with these words, Elizabeth becomes the first prophet of the New Testament, years before her son would prepare the way for Mary’s child. It is Elizabeth who is doubly favoured and doubly filled, first with a child in her barrenness and then with the Holy Spirit. In her the first stirrings of prophecy are felt in Israel after hundreds of years without the Word of the Lord. She is the first to confess Jesus as Lord, the first to recognize the divine Word in the mortal womb of Mary. In the flurry of prophetic activity surrounding Jesus’ birth, Elizabeth is singled out, not only as the mother of John the Baptist but also as a prophet in her own right.
Elizabeth. With faith and joy you accepted the work of God in your own life and were the first to recognize it in others. There are days when my doubt silences me. When I am mute to the call of God at my own gate. I feel my own barrenness and fear it is from sin.
Holy Spirit, awaken my heart to the wonders of God’s birth among us. May I be as quick as Elizabeth to rejoice at the coming of my Lord.
Lindsey Gallant loves everyday theology and lives with her family on their mini-farm in Prince Edward Island. She blogs at www.theredlettersblog.com.
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This article appears in the November/December 2015 issue of testimony.
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