Bible reading: Luke 1:23–25,39–45
The Hebrew form of the name Elizabeth means ‘worshipper of God’. Everything that we know about Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah and mother of John the Baptist, is to be found in the book of Luke. She was a descendant of the priestly line of Aaron, and a close relative of the Virgin Mary. Luke tells us that Elizabeth had lived a blameless life with her husband in one of the hill towns of Judea. But she had reached old age with her prayers for a son unanswered.
As we learned yesterday, Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah was burning incense in the Temple when the angel Gabriel appeared to him and announced that a son who would be ‘great in the sight of the Lord’ (Luke 1:14) would be born to Elizabeth. When she was already six months pregnant, the angel appeared to Mary to tell her of the birth of Christ. Mary came to visit Elizabeth, and when Mary entered the house the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy. We read that the elderly lady Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and ‘in a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”’ (vv.41–42).
As if this were not dramatic enough, Elizabeth goes on to call Mary the ‘mother of my Lord’ (v.43). Elizabeth was not the kind of person to whom exciting things happened. Yet here she is in old age, expecting a miraculous son and now recognising with prophetic power the unborn incarnate Christ in Mary’s womb and choosing to worship Him. Having waited her entire life for something good to happen, she does not stay on the sidelines and observe – she enters into the action wholeheartedly. In the fullness of God’s timing she has a significant role to play. She is the mother of John the Baptist and she is able to follow him in worshipping Christ.
We get a strong sense that Elizabeth has learned from Zechariah’s situation in what she says next: ‘Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!’ (v.45). Elizabeth is able to commend Mary for her faith.
At Elizabeth’s delivery, her friends and neighbours rejoice with her and, when the child was brought for circumcision, they want to call him after his father Zechariah, but Elizabeth says, ‘No! He is to be called John’ (v.60). Again she is faithful to the promise the angel had given her husband. She has seen the consequences of cynicism and is determined to be full of faith and hope.
Pause to reflect:
Elizabeth must have felt forgotten by God after years of faithful service, with time (chronos) passing year after year. Yet when God’s marvellous intervention came in His perfect timing, this woman met the kairos events with joy and faith. She had not become hardened by disappointment; somehow she had learned to trust God even in lengthy difficult times. This was all a part of God preparing her to be a part of the Advent story. She gives birth to the forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist.
Take some time to pray using the line of the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Your kingdom come.’ Ask for His marvellous intervention in your life and in the life of your church.
1. Have you ever felt forgotten by God? What does Elizabeth’s story say to you about this?
2. How can you be more open to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life?
3. What breakthroughs are you praying for in your own life and in the life of your church for the coming year?