When I think about Advent, I am always struck by the ‘humanity’ of it all. The very idea that God would send his son to take on a cloak of humanity in order that lost mankind might be redeemed and restored in their relationship with our God? That seems like such an ‘unhuman’ thing for the God of All Creation to do, and yet it was so.
And to bring about the reality of how God became flesh, God would use human beings to play an incredible role. Last week, we touched on one of those characters, Zechariah the priest. But he wasn’t the only person involved in his part of the story of Advent. His wife, Elizabeth had a starring role, as well.
Luke the Physician, in chapter 2 of his gospel, tells us that, like her husband Zechariah, Elizabeth was old. “Well along in years,” is how the NIV translates her age. Just an elderly, Jewish woman who knew the pain of a childless marriage. Elizabeth had never birthed a baby. I imagine that she wore her disappointment at not having a child with a quiet and godly dignity. In fact, the bible says that both she and her husband were “upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.”
What on earth had happened to Zechariah between the time he left and the time he got back home? Why didn’t he say something? Why didn’t he explain himself? Maybe he tried. But to say the first conversation between he and Elizabeth when he got home was ‘muted’ would be the understatement of the year.
Did she have to read something he’d written on a tablet? Did she have to make sense of the motions he was making with his hands? We don’t know how he tried to communicate what had happened, for sure. The bible just says, “he returned home, and after this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant.” She hid out for five months. As that baby grew, inside her body, she knew that God had done something remarkable. And she said so. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said.
She could so easily have sat in a corner every day saying to herself, “Why couldn’t this have happened to me when I was young?” No conversation about how difficult it was going to be to deliver a baby at her age. No complaining about what it was going to be like trying to keep up with a three year old when you’re old enough to be a grandparent yourself. No evidence she ever hammered on Zechariah, saying “What do you have to say for yourself?” No. We have none of that about Elizabeth. Only her resolve to obediently play the part God had assigned to her, as the mother of the child who would become the man we know as John the Baptist.
One more interesting thought: The bible says that in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Gabriel showed up again, this time to Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary, and broke the news to her about Elizabeth’s pregnancy … and her own. Mary paid Elizabeth a visit a few days later, and stayed with her for three months. And about the time it was time for Mary to return home … it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby.
More about that next time, on Classic State of Mind.