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Every Christmas, I linger over the story of Mary and Elizabeth in Luke’s gospel. I believe it was a rich time spiritually and I hunger for details. We know that the baby Elizabeth was carrying leaped in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. And we know that Mary sang a beautiful praise to the Lord (Luke 1:46-55). Beyond that, little is known so I ponder a bit on some probabilities.
It was right after Gabriel told Mary she would bear the son of God, that she departed for the home of her relative, Elizabeth, who lived in the hill country of Judea. Tradition has it the town was Ana Karim, a one hundred mile journey. Perhaps Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, arranged for her safe travel by caravan.
Mary could surely think of nothing else on her journey but the child who would come from her womb. She would bear the long awaited Messiah! It sounded far-fetched, but Elizabeth would understand. For Elizabeth, like Mary, was experiencing an impossible pregnancy. Aged and far beyond childbearing years, Elizabeth was in her sixth month, Gabriel had said. Elizabeth would be excited for Mary. How good it would be to talk with her kinswoman about their visits from God’s messenger.
Young Mary would take over the household duties. I can hear her encouraging the elderly Elizabeth to rest. The house had been silent for six months—the time Zechariah had been mute due to his unbelief that Elizabeth would bear a child. Mary would provide Elizabeth with much needed conversation; I think of the talks they must have had. Sobering talks, for sure, but I also think there was lots of laughter. Don’t we always laugh when we are happy? And how could they not be happy?
I imagine Elizabeth’s husband, a priest, to be in constant worship. I see Zechariah on his face before God for long stretches of time. I see him, even in his inability to speak, leading Mary and Elizabeth in worship. Messianic prophesy was unfolding before Zechariah’s very eyes, prophetic scriptures he knew by heart. He was a part, for the son born to him would prepare the way for the Messiah. How many time, do you suppose Zechariah wrote to Mary “Tell me again what Gabriel said.” I see his face filling with awe and his soundless mouth forming words of thanksgiving each time Mary gave the report. Though silence had been imposed on Zechariah, it would not have stolen his joy.
In the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary gave. But we must not miss that it was also a time when she received. Elizabeth, by years and as the wife of a priest, would have given Mary exceptional advice, sharing knowledge and wisdom. Mary would have gone home a different woman, one better prepared for the role she had been designated to play.
Mary said in her song to the Lord (Luke 146-56) that He had been mindful of the humble state of his servant. I believe the time Mary spent with Elizabeth was part of the Lord’s being mindful of Mary. God always takes care of anything, even the things we don’t sometimes realize are by His hand and plan.