If Oscars were handed out to participants in the Christmas narrative, I think Elizabeth deserves the nod for best actress in a supporting role.
The first chapter of Luke tells us that she and her husband, the priest Zechariah, were “righteous in God’s sight.” Sadly, though, “they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.”
This devout Jewish couple had struggled with infertility but had long since given up waiting for a baby, simply because it was biologically impossible.
They were too old.
Then one day, Zechariah was burning incense before the Lord in the temple and the angel Gabriel appeared to him. The angel told him Elizabeth was going to have a baby, and that the baby would serve as the forerunner to the Messiah.
Though a godly man, Zechariah didn’t believe the angel. As a result, he was struck mute until the baby was born.
The angel was right, of course. Elizabeth—despite her age and lack of necessary hormones—conceived and eventually had a child named John the Baptist.
In the meantime, she spent considerable time with her relative, Mary, who had recently received her own incredible news from Gabriel.
When the angel appeared to Zachariah, he said, “Do not be afraid, Zachariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you will name him John.” (Luke 1:13)
His wording intrigues me. I’m guessing this couple’s infertility had caused them great grief when they were younger, and perhaps they still had tender spots in their hearts about the subject. But they were well past the season of praying for a miracle.
For God, though, the season of miracles was just beginning. He had heard the prayers they prayed so long ago, and He was answering them now.
Here’s the thing this Christmas season. There may be desires that we have to hold loosely and even let go of because they may not be part of God’s plan for us. But He does hear—and remember—every single prayer.
So while it may seem that our prayers our bouncing off the ceiling, they’re not. God hears and He will answer—in His way and in His timing.
After the angel appeared to Mary, the Bible says she “hurried to the town in the hill country of Judah where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth” (who was in her sixth month of pregnancy).
Further, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: ‘You are the most blessed of women, and your child will be blessed! How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’ ” (Luke 1:41-43)
It would have been very easy for Elizabeth to become bitter and angry and disillusioned with God as a result of her situation, but that doesn’t seem to be what happened to her. Despite the societal disgrace she experienced, I think she remained wholeheartedly devoted to God in the midst of her pain and disappointment. After all, the praise that spilled from her lips when Mary arrived seemed very natural—as if she were used to praising God.
And did you notice that when the angel appeared to Mary, she hurried to Elizabeth’s house? The Scriptures later say she stayed there for three months, which speaks volumes about the kind of person Elizabeth was. She wasn’t a bitter old shrew, disgruntled at God and everyone else because her life hadn’t turned out the way she thought it should.
She was the person to whom Mary ran when she found out the exciting, troubling, overwhelming, amazing news that she was miraculously pregnant with God’s Son!
Perhaps Mary ran to Elizabeth because she knew Elizabeth would believe her, not cast judgment on her. She knew Elizabeth would praise God with her, and she knew Elizabeth would encourage and support her—all in the quiet safety of her home.
Why on earth did God make Elizabeth wait so long to fulfill her dream of motherhood? Why did He choose her to give birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah?
We don’t know the answers to these questions. We only know what happened as a result of her situation, and how it was used in the lives of others.
Just after Gabriel told Mary how it was possible for her to be pregnant, he added this: “And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:36)
Right after that, Mary rushed to Elizabeth’s house and spent those three months under her nurturing wing. How important it must have been for the young, unmarried Mary to spend that time with another recipient of God’s miraculous grace at that specific time in her life?
Granted, Elizabeth was carrying Zechariah’s baby and Mary was carrying God’s Son, but they both found themselves in extremely unusual situations.
Had God answered Elizabeth’s prayers earlier in her life, she would have missed out on many blessings, not the least of which was the opportunity to be an encouragement to the mother of the Messiah! Maybe, just maybe, her wait for a baby had more to do with Mary than with herself.
And maybe, just maybe, the same is true for us. Perhaps there are times in our lives when God allows us to experience things primarily so that we can be a piece of someone else’s puzzle.
It might be hard to hear, but I think it’s true.
Sometimes, our seasons in the waiting room are not about us. They’re all about how God wants to use us and our experiences to help someone else.
P.S. I’m linking up this week with Grace & Truth, Lyli Dunbar at Thought-Provoking Thursday, Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory and Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart.