Background: Zechariah and Elizabeth are expecting a baby. Elizabeth exclaims, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” This is one joyful household! They are happy that their "bundle of joy," is on his way, but they both know this is no ordinary pregnancy.
My mom says that when she first found out she was pregnant with her firstborn, my sister Susanna, she imagined the cute, cuddly baby she would hold peacefully in her arms. It was not until the next day that she remembered one of the other aspects of child rearing: diapers. She began to encourage herself that her baby would grow up someday, but wait... her baby would grow up! Was she really ready for parenting?
My thoughts: Zechariah and Elizabeth are going to have a lot more to deal with than diapers. Their son John will be, "a prophet of the Most High." There had to be a lot of questions in these elderly -- but new -- parents' minds.
Then, just a few months into Elizabeth's pregnancy, a visitor arrives at their door -- Elizabeth's maiden cousin Mary -- and what a surprise of joy she will bring!
The Bible account tells us:
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
This is probably not the way Mary expected to be greeted. Elizabeth knew her secret, but she wasn't shocked. Rather, she was rejoicing and calling her blessed! This is testimony to Elizabeth's strong relationship with the Lord. The Holy Spirit was able to use Elizabeth to affirm Mary in her greatest moment of need.
Elizabeth was a port in the storm for Mary, an unmarried girl who found herself pregnant. Mary didn't have a great excuse either. Instead, she has an unbelievable story about still being a virgin, an angelic visit, and that her unborn child is the son of the Most High God. Yet, Elizabeth believed. She didn't even need the explanation; she (and baby John within her) recognized Mary as the mother of her Lord! Remarkable.
Elizabeth is the kind of woman I want to be. She was led by the Holy Spirit, she was a place of security and comfort within her family, she was an encourager, and, most of all, she had faith in God. She wasn't afraid to shelter a girl with a strange, scandalous tale. She felt honored to be chosen by Mary as a safe mentor to go to. Elizabeth was able to express genuine joy!
But what about Zechariah? He has been punished by God and made mute. Will he rise above it all and believe Mary? Can he have joy despite his questions? …more on that later.