The scriptural accounts of Jesus’ birth are full of barbs, pricks, and leaps; yet, over time we’ve become so familiar with the story that we now fail to grasp (let alone appreciate) the blessed disruption that always seems to occur when God appears.
Now, two days prior to Christmas, allow me to briefly examine the second of three things wrong with the Christmas story, as we commonly hear it: The under-appreciation of Elizabeth’s choice to be hospitable.
“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’” (Luke 1:39-45, NIV)
Like Joseph, whom we briefly discussed yesterday, Elizabeth acted against the prevailing sentiments of her day in obedience to God. If, as the book of Proverbs says: “A brother is born for a time of adversity”; it is during adversity that loyalties are proven.
When Mary learned of her crucial role in the Incarnation, it turned her world upside-down. Understandably, Mary “got ready and hurried” to her relative Elizabeth, perhaps in hope that Elizabeth might provide her “context” for her situation, since she had recently experienced her own miracle — with all of its attendant uncertainties.
Often, when God leads us through a desert it is because we are being prepared to help those who will follow. In this regard, Elizabeth did not disappoint. Elizabeth’s first words to Mary were words of affirmation and hospitality. May God help each of us to gladly welcome and to affirm those who seek our counsel. – Luther