“. . . [Mary] you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age” (Luke 1:30-31, 36 NIV).
In reading Luke 1, I always stay a while at the part of the story where Mary and Elizabeth spend time together. These were two women of impossibility, touched by God to play pivotal roles in the salvation story. I doubt even the most creative of minds could do justice to what each gained in the three months they spent together.
The Jewish people had long awaited their Messiah; probably no one ever considered He would come by virgin birth to an unknown. Then there was the case of a woman long past child-bearing years, but by God’s divine appointment also pregnant. Most likely each one was enduring ridicule: Mary with her suspicious pregnancy and Elizabeth carrying a child in a worn out body.
I believe God always gives us added blessing when we go through troublesome times and He didn’t miss the benefit Mary and Elizabeth would derive from human comfort and support. He gave them companionship for three months. He gave them added blessing.
Somehow, I suspect the journey to Judea of four to five days probably didn’t seem that long to Mary; her mind must have been so flooded with all Gabriel had told her that she hardly noticed the steps. Upon reaching Elizabeth’s home, she heard Elizabeth say “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her would be accomplished” (Luke 1:45 NIV). That may well have given Mary the first relief she experienced after knowing her destiny. She was believed! She was affirmed without saying a word! It was God’s added blessing.
Elizabeth was six months pregnant when Mary arrived so Mary was with her right up to time for John’s birth. Why would she stay so long? I believe to help this elderly woman through the hardest days of her pregnancy. I don’t think it assuming too much to consider that Elizabeth might have been confined to bed. Mary would likely have taken over cooking and cleaning and other household duties. And, with Zechariah unable to speak, Mary would have provided Elizabeth with conversation during her time of waiting.
In return, the young Mary would have gained great wisdom from Elizabeth. She would have passed on life advice and spiritual advice. Imagine the wealth of knowledge the wife of a priest would have! Mary would have gone back to Nazareth a stronger woman, better prepared to endure the unkind comments and stares of a suspect pregnancy, and one schooled in how to be a spiritual guide for the Lord in His youth.
For me, the three months shared by Mary and Elizabeth is a chief and often overlooked story of God’s amazing grace; how He never gives us anything to do that He doesn’t also give us the help in doing it–that thing called added blessing.