Two Women At Christmas
As we approach Christmas let’s consider the story of two women who were significant in the birth of our Savior, the promised Messiah: Mary and Elizabeth. The younger one seeking out the older. Lives touching. Mentoring occurring. A divine encounter, a God-set up.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is unique in history. Yet she had a humble beginning. Pastor Jack Hayford says we may wonder about her, “Was Mary possibly only a plain girl with simple faith, raised in an ordinary home, scheduled for an arranged marriage, and headed for an uneventful future married to the town carpenter? The suggestion that she was ordinary comes from the words Mary sings: ‘For He has regarded the lowly state of His handmaiden. He has exalted the lowly’” (Luke 1:48). Hayford adds: “God clothes Himself in the ordinary so He can come to ordinary people—you and me.” 1
Mary and Elizabeth. Both were having miracle babies who would affect history. Both women could have been labeled “disgraced” by their Hebrew peers - Elizabeth for being barren, Mary for being pregnant before marriage. Both knew God intimately, were worshipers, and were acquainted with Scripture.
The Christmas story began not in Bethlehem but in Nazareth, where Mary received the message from Gabriel. He disclosed God’s plan for her life. “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!...Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” (Luke 1: 28-32 NKJV)
When Mary questioned Gabriel how this could happen, since she was a virgin, he explained: “Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; for that reason also the holy Child will be called the Son of God… and His kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:30-35).
Mary, in bold obedience replied, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (verse 38). And the angel departed from her.
“We can hardly fathom the bewildering moment Mary experienced,” Freda Lindsay reminds us. “That she was a privileged vessel, chosen to bear God's Son, is wonder enough, for she is a participant in the miracle of the Incarnation at a level no other human being can comprehend. It is clear she did not claim to understand it herself, yet she was obedient,”2
At first, Mary was troubled, pondering the situation. But the angel had told her some great news: “And behold your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age, and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God” (verses 36-37).
Mary may have wondered just why the angel told her Elizabeth is pregnant. But she got up and hurried to see Elizabeth in the village of En Karem in the Judean hill country, about 65 miles away. How did she get there? Did she go in a caravan of camels or donkeys? Did she have morning sickness? Was Joseph, to whom she was engaged, okay with her going? We don’t know the answers. However, she is quickly getting herself to the house of her relative Elizabeth, who’s married to the priest, Zechariah.
When Mary entered their home the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt with joy (Luke 1:41). But get this: Elizabeth not only praised God in a loud voice, but she was also filled with Holy Spirit (verse 41). (I wonder if she would have had this experience with Holy Spirit’s infilling if Mary had not come). Mary did not even have to explain to her that she was pregnant, for God had revealed it to Elizabeth. She said to Mary, almost as a prophecy, “Blessed are you among women. Blessed is the child you shall bear. Why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:41-43).
Think about this: Elizabeth was six months pregnant, five of those hidden in seclusion. Her husband, Zechariah - a priest, could not talk to her. He had been struck mute when he questioned the angel who came to him after he had burned incense in the temple (Luke 1:20). The angel told him that his wife, who was barren and advanced in age, would bear a son. They were to name him John and he would be great in the sight of the Lord. (He was later known as John the Baptist).
While she was expecting her baby boy, Elizabeth’s husband could only communicate with her by writing on a wax tablet or with hand motions. Did her seclusion also mean she did not fetch water at the well when other women were there or even intermingle with them in the marketplace?
A Jewish wife in those days prepared the meals, cared for the children, made and washed the clothes, went to the market, tended the lamps. She was expected to be a good housekeeper and an affectionate mother who set the “love level” in the home. Sons usually went to study Torah at an early age and learned a trade from their father.
Girls did not receive the formal training as sons did, but evidence shows both Mary and Elizabeth knew the Scriptures. Since Elizabeth was the wife of a priest and daughter of a family of priests from the house of Aaron, she probably heard much godly talk from guests in her home. Mary’s song of exaltation - Magnificat - contains references from Hannah’s prayer nearly a thousand years earlier as she praised God for her baby Samuel.
Mary was possibly still a teenager. The advice and wisdom of an older woman would be valuable as she pondered many things in her heart. But didn’t Elizabeth also need her company? Mary stayed three months with her (Luke 1:56). Observing, confiding in her, no doubt receiving mentoring and love and spiritual insights.
Elizabeth may have talked to Mary about how to be a good wife and she was surely a great encourager and influencer, giving her a blessing and honor. They obviously spent time together worshipping the Lord.
Mary provided Elizabeth companionship, conversation and most certainly helped her with household chores. They each had something of worth to share in this short-term but significant relationship. Just think, Elizabeth was the first human to acknowledge Jesus as the Lord--while he was yet unborn.
Let’s not fail to recognize Holy Spirit’s part in this first Christmas drama concerning these two women. As we have already mentioned, first Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary (Luke 1:35). Then He filled Elizabeth and the baby in her womb with Himself also. Finally, even Zachariah. On the eighth day after their baby’s birth when they took him to be circumcised and to announce John’s name, Zechariah was filled with Holy Spirit (Luke 1:67). His tongue was loosed and he was able to speak again. So he, a priest, began to prophesy about both the coming Messiah and about his son, John, who would be a forerunner for Him.
This Christmas season as we reflect on the various people involved in the birth of Jesus, let’s draw lessons from their examples. Are there younger people in our lives we could encourage? Mentor? Are there those we can pray for to receive Jesus as Savior? Or to receive Holy Spirit’s touch?
God is looking for ordinary people-- like you and me to help make a difference for Him in the lives of those with whom we interact. Divine connections. He has given us a story to tell.
Jesus is the reason for the season! Let’s go share this great news.
Pray with me:
Thank You, Heavenly Father, for the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to be bold to share this good news, especially during this Christmas season, and bring others to Him for their salvation. Thank You that just as the angel told Mary nothing is or ever shall be impossible for God, so may we believe for the miracles we need also. We ask this in the name of Jesus, Amen.
I will never doubt God - for He who promised is faithful - even sending us a Savior, the very Son of God.
Today’s post was written by our dear friend and author Quin Sherrer. You can find out more about Quin here or at Quinsherrer.com.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.
Jack W. Hayford, The Christmas Miracle, Chosen Books, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1999) pp 39, 41.
Freda Lindsay, Luke 1:26-56 comments. Spirit Filled Life Bible, 3rd edition NKJV, (Jack Hayford, Executive Editor, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN. 2017) p 1450.