What the Christmas Story Reveals about Waiting

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.”

Blue candle and star

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.

Lois Flowers

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.

28 Responses to What the Christmas Story Reveals about Waiting

  1. Lois, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Elizabeth. Thanks for letting me know you’d also written on her this week. I agree with your conclusion. When we forget it’s His-story, not ours, we get our nose out of joint! Perspective makes the difference. His ways are always better than ours! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Debbie, I’ve definitely gotten my nose out of joint doing that very thing more times than I want to admit! Thankfully, God is always gracious to remind me who’s really in charge. 🙂 I’m so glad our paths crossed today … many Christmas blessings to you!

  2. Great insights about waiting from Elizabeth’s perspective. Thanks for sharing these thoughts I’ll ponder!

  3. I love your thoughts on Mary & Elizabeth’s relationship. I had never thought much about it until I saw “The Nativity.” It must have been very special. Blessings on you this Christmas! Visiting from Grace & Truth.

  4. I love to ponder that relationship between Mary and Elisabeth. I think there are all kinds of lessons there for us as women who long to live in community with others. Elisabeth functioned in such a supportive and encouraging role — and aside from that her testimony of faithfulness during a time in Israel’s history when God had been silent for 400 years . . . unbelievable. Yes, she’s get my vote for that Oscar! Such a creative post!

  5. First, let me say that I had never considered Elizabeth very much. You made some excellent points about her character, and I am blessed to have read this, this morning. Second, I have to agree with your conclusion. “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.” That really spoke to me. This year, I have had some struggles that I am convinced are directly related to my ability to encourage others. I hope I can be an Elizabeth. Thanks for posting this! It was a blessing! Merry Christmas!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Amanda, I’m glad you are able to see the purpose behind some of your struggles this year … I hope that has made them easier to bear in some way. Thank you for your kind words … you have certainly encouraged ME today!

  6. Lois, your words here resonated with me on so many levels. I needed to hear this today. Thank you 🙂

  7. Gayl says:

    I love your thoughts here about Elizabeth. We don’t usually here much about her as the emphasis is usually on Mary. Elizabeth must have been a godly woman and God answered her prayer at just the right time even though it was so long after she prayed it. It’s a good lesson for us to learn. I’m visiting from #ThoughtfulThursday. Blessings to you and have a wonderful Christmas!

  8. I’ve shared this on my church’s FB page. I love how you made me think about the bigger picture here — God knows ALL the pieces of the puzzle even when He seems to be telling me no (or, worse, seems to be ignoring my well-laid-out rationale for my requests!) And to think that my waiting may provide blessing for someone else … that’s invaluable.
    FYI, I can relate more to Zechariah than Elizabeth! 🙂
    Thanks for the insights, my friend.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      We’re so good at presenting those “well-laid-out rationales” for our requests, aren’t we? 🙂 And I’m with you … God nearly always has something else in mind besides my “perfect” plan! Thanks for your encouragement, Suzy, and for sharing the post on your church’s FB page. Hugs to you today!

  9. Dawn says:

    oh, the waiting is not my strong suit, Lois, but you are right about the way He works the best plans which are for His glory as well as our good. Elizabeth is on of my favorite women in scripture. Her example says much about the kind of faithful devotion I’d like to be found practicing.

    Encouraging words!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I love Elizabeth, too, Dawn. And like you, I’m not the best waiter in the world, either (though I’ve had plenty of opportunities to practice)! For His glory AND our good … that’s such powerful truth! Blessings to you today!

  10. Oh gosh, “Sometimes, our seasons in the waiting room are not about us.”
    How did you know how hard I’ve struggled all last week over an unanswered prayer… and was just thinking today about God’s reasoning and lack of answer, and whether I needed more faith or trust or….
    Turns out, I’ve forgotten how to wait. And that His timing cannot be understood within human confines.
    This post is such a gift, Lois, you have no idea how my insides have settled and hope is renewed.
    Thank you, friend.
    Glad I was over at #TellHisStory with you today.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Christine, I love how you put this: “His timing cannot be understood within human confines.” Praying with you that God’s answer to you will be revealed when the time is right, and that you will have the patience to watch and wait for it. I’m glad you found the post helpful, and I also want to thank YOU for your encouragement today … your words are a gift to me, too!

  11. Trudy says:

    I love this beautiful insight and encouragement, Lois. Thank you! I had never thought of how much God used Elizabeth to mentor and nurture Mary. It must have been such a comfort to Mary to have someone who believed what was happening, to support her, and to rejoice with her. This is a comforting reminder to me – “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.” Have a joy-filled Christmas, Lois!

  12. Lisa notes says:

    It’s funny how easy it is to put God on MY timetable, instead of laying out a request, then letting HIM decide when and how to answer. I need this reminder often to wait on him as patiently as did Elisabeth and many of those of old. Thanks, Lois.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’ve done that too many times to count, Lisa … outlining a step-by-step plan for God to follow, only to realize eventually that His ways are perfect, not mine! (I’m glad I’m not the only one!) Blessings to you this week!

  13. WeepingWillow says:

    Wonderful post, Lois! The Lord is faithful, even when He may seem distant to us.

    Elizabeth and Sarah were biologically past their prime, yet God rewarded them for not lacking diligence. Elizabeth was definitely part of a big piece of the puzzle. John had to prepare the way for Jesus in order for Him to continue with His ministry, as it was written in the Scriptures.
    It is a reminder to all of us struggling with any issue to trust God and let His perfect timing come through. Remember Jeremiah 29:11!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family, Lois! 🙂

  14. Linda Stoll says:

    ‘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.’

    Wow. That’s a feast for thought, Lois.

    It’s easy to get tunnel-visioned when we’re in the waiting room and live like life’s all about us.

    He’s always inviting us to something deeper. Thank you for the gentle reminder. And for the lovely weaving of Elizabeth and Mary’s story. Beautiful.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      It took me a lot of waiting room time to realize this, Linda. And even though I still don’t wait very well, knowing that there could be some greater purpose actually does help! You’re right … He is always inviting us to something deeper. And I so appreciate your encouragement!

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