“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 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?’” (Luke 1:39-43)
Mary of Nazareth was a very young woman, probably fourteen to sixteen when the angel Gabriel informed her that she was to be the mother of God’s son.
She was also a small-town girl. Nazareth was a village in the Galilean hills far north of the sophisticated city life of Jerusalem.
We do not know much about Mary’s parents – just that her father, Heli, was a descendent of King David. But we do know Mary’s parents raised a good girl. We know this because an all-wise God picked her to be His Son’s mother. She would nurture His childhood development.
We also know Mary was good by her response to Gabriel’s announcement. Once she got past the mystery of a virgin having a baby, her response was, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) This sounds remarkably like what her son, Jesus, would declare thirty-four years later in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will but Thy will be done.”
So, what does a young, small-town, engaged-but-not-yet-married good girl do when she finds out she is pregnant?
Her fiancé Joseph was a gentle man, but it was an arranged marriage. The only thing she knew for sure was he did not expect to marry a pregnant bride.
And while she loved her hometown, she also knew how they would react to her pregnancy. Glances and gossip behind her back – even hostility. Remember, Nazareth is the place that later tried to throw their hometown boy, Jesus, off a cliff. (Luke 4:29)
Mary needed counsel. Mary needed a spiritual mother. And for that reason, she hurried to visit her relative, Elizabeth.
Why did Mary go to Elizabeth? I can think of several reasons:
- Mary had hometown issues and needed someone outside that environment to help her think things through.
- Elizabeth was an older woman with the wisdom life experience can bring.
- Elizabeth was a devout and godly woman, “upright in the sight of the Lord”. (Luke 1:6) She knew God and had access to God’s wisdom.
- Elizabeth had dealt with the hardship of social stigma herself, having been barren in a culture where a woman’s most valued purpose was to bear children.
- Elizabeth had six months earlier experienced her own miracle from God! God had granted her heart’s desire for a child in her old age. Elizabeth did not just know God’s word. She knew God’s power.
- The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary in bringing about the conception of Jesus. The decision to go to Elizabeth was probably Spirit-led.
A newly pregnant Mary hurried south to Judea. When she arrived, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out her joy for what God had done in Mary. “Blessed are you among women!” What a tremendous affirmation for this young, pregnant single woman to hear! What a confirmation Mary had come to the right person.
Two women – one pregnant long after her time had passed and one pregnant before her time had come. One old, one young – both lovers of God who wanted His will for their lives, and both loving and caring for each other.
The Bible does not provide specifics about how Elizabeth and Mary interacted during the three months Mary stayed in Judea. But I am confident they worshipped the Lord and prayed together every day. Elizabeth shared with this young woman all the wisdom she had earned in her long life and gave a listening ear to all the questions and ideas that poured forth from Mary.
When Mary returned home, she was three months pregnant and showing, but she was now prepared to deal with the reactions of her fiancée, her family, and her community. And she knew, no matter how they reacted, she had a trusted friend she could always turn to.
The story speaks for itself. In this troubled 21st century, our young people desperately need spiritual mothers and fathers. We must stop separating the generations in the Church and start connecting them. The blessings that result will be mutual.
My beloved Christie was a terrific mom to our daughters, Jen and Jes, all their lives, and now they are terrific moms to our grandchildren. During the last three decades of her life, Christie became a wonderful spiritual mother to them all and to many others. This revised and reprised column honors the fruit of her faithfulness.
Happy Mother’s Day weekend!