39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
After Mary had received word that she was to bear a child, though she was a virgin, she went to go visit her older cousin, Elizabeth, who had also miraculously conceived a child with her husband, Zechariah. Though Zechariah and Elizabeth were old, God had appeared to Zechariah, a priest, granting the couple a child. Elizabeth stayed in her home for the first 5 months of her pregnancy, tending to herself and praising God for this miracle. So both women, experiencing the same shock of the Holy Spirit, in drastic different ways, came together and experienced, yet again, another confirmation of the Spirit doing His work through their stories. When we look back on Elizabeth’s life, we see her living with shame as she had been unable to conceive all her life, especially in a society in which your power, status and wealth came from having sons. Now, after waiting for years on end, constantly praying at the Temple, probably doubting God’s faithfulness in her family’s life, she is greeted not only by the sweet surprise of conceiving her own child, but also that the Lord was to be born from her dear cousin, Mary.
For us, we celebrate the Advent for the 4 weeks prior to Christmas, signifying the coming of the Lord through all the years of waiting. The Advent paints the picture of remembering, after millennia of waiting, Jesus came in all of His glory as a babe on Christmas morning. The Advent also foreshadows the sweet return of Jesus amid our yearning and waiting.
Amid the yearning and waiting of Zechariah and Elizabeth, God not only heard all their cries and prayers He also knew that His timing, no matter how outrageous it might seem from our eyes, was perfect. Elizabeth knew that after all this time waiting in her shame and disgrace, that she had met the Christ who was to fulfill all of the promises that she had studied and held onto throughout her life. She was finally granted the deepest desire of her heart, to bear a child, not just to fulfill her own wishes, but to ultimately play a part in the greater story of the Gospel. Her calling as a wife, a sister and a friend, was realized and she burst out in praise and encouragement towards Mary, celebrating all that God had planned for throughout the years of waiting.
Later we see that this plan of redemption would not be fully complete until Jesus Christ lived His life, absolutely faithful to the calling as the Son of God. And yet, rather than being blessed for his faithfulness and for the utmost trust He had in His Father, Jesus was instead cursed on the cross as one who is faithless. Consequently, Jesus took the cosmic curse and barrenness of our sin so that we who were once cursed and barren can now be blessed and experience renewed life. It was because Jesus Christ took our shame and gave up His glory so that we can live our lives free from the bondage of sin that robs us of life. Rather than waiting with anxiety or dread, we are able to wait in joy, knowing that He has planned out our lives in accordance to His glory and for our good.
One of the beautiful aspects of this passage is that Elizabeth doesn’t just spend the time talking about all the good that God has done in her life, but she begins by encouraging and affirming Mary. The Spirit allows for us to be that faithful word or deed of support to those in our lives who have yet to see that God is working in our waiting. Are we just as excited for those in our lives as we watch how God is intricately leading them through His plans for Glory or are we so caught up in our own wins and losses of our lives to even notice that He is there? As we await our King this week during Advent, would we be brought out of ourselves, the shame and disgrace from which we oftentimes hide ourselves, and come together to celebrate the act of waiting, knowing that His plans for us are good. Rather than waiting anxiously, would this week be full of joyful anticipation, believing in the grace of what has been and what might be to know that there is wonder in the waiting.