Her days had been long, searching for the promise. She had all but given up hope this would actually happen. She kept pressing forward in life, never giving up on God. He must have a different plan, she must have thought. He may have had other ideas. She couldn’t quite understand it or put it all together. But there was something to all of this. And she remained faithful. That’s who she was, that’s what she did. She was a woman of faith – always had been, always would be. She had the lineage of faith as well. Her name meant something. People knew who she was. She was highly regarded and respected among many. She had married well and she loved God with her all. Yet there was still something missing.
She was getting older. As each year ticked by, she let the spark of a new day fade. It was okay. She was embarrassed. She couldn’t believe it. But it was okay. She would be okay. They would be okay. They didn’t have children but they had each other and they had God – and that had to be enough. They loved each other.
We can miss her in the whole story. She can get lost in the background of it all. Yet she is the one. She is the promised one. She is the one to watch. Her name is Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a descendant of Aaron. She is from the priestly line – from the original first priest. This was her heritage. Faithful service was how she was taught and how it all came together. For her to marry a priest only seemed fitting – the way it should be. Yet, in their faithful service, they still had no children. Their dedication had not given them the one thing they wanted more than all the rest.
That changed, though. There was a change in the air. Something big was about to happen. Anticipation filled the room where the priest, Zechariah, served. Anticipation filled their home as a promise would somehow be fulfilled. Her time was not done. Her life was not complete, not yet. God still had something for her. Elizabeth was needed. She was an important, vital part of God’s ultimate, greater plan. She would become a mother. She would be a mother to someone that would surely change the whole landscape of faith. He would be called and sent by God. He had a mission. Elizabeth felt it. Her life was changing moment by moment as this new baby grew inside of her. Her womb was filled with anticipation and grace. There was more to come. Hope was still to be discovered.
Gabriel brought the news. Elizabeth stayed put. She waited for direction. She looked for the next step. She searched for what God has planned. If he could do this – this whole baby thing – he surely had something incredible ahead. She was to wait. She was to hope again. She was to anticipate the goodness of all that was ahead. God had given her an amazing gift. One of the most amazing gifts came in a visit. This visit brought things into perspective. She was a woman of faith. She got that God was at work. She understood that things were much more connected than she could see. And so this visit was confirmation – times were changing and her baby had something to do with this. Let’s look at just a small part of her story.
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Mary was at the door – her young cousin, Mary. Mary was so young and Elizabeth so not. Yet, these two women had a connection that would last a lifetime – and beyond. She had an experience that changed everything. Mary walks in the door, Elizabeth can’t calm the excitement of the baby she is carrying in the womb. And Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. It is Elizabeth that brings the proclamation. It is Elizabeth that understands there is something monumental about this visit – about this baby – about her cousin. There is something so much bigger than any of them could have ever imagined. She is privileged to not only carry a child, but to experience the woman that would carry the Lord. It was more than any of them could explain. They became a comfort, a peace, and a strength for one another. They were at different life stages but going through similar struggles. Mary, a soon to be young mother who was unmarried and inexperienced. Elizabeth had wisdom, courage and strength on her side – but didn’t actually have any children of her own. Both pregnant – both finding their way through unknown territory. Both lean on each other – strengths and weaknesses combine. Hope is finally being renewed. God was up to something big. And their two sons would be the forces behind it all. This is something huge!
In case you had not picked up on it, Advent begins today. The multi week wandering that brings us to the manger and the fulfillment of a promise. Promises fulfilled is what it is all about. Anticipation of the great things to come fill the air. Excitement becomes paramount as new life is apparent. We see Elizabeth today – for her hope and excitement of all that is ahead. We see her for her motherly wisdom and her Godly faith. We see her for all that she is – a child of God, used in a mighty way, to bring life to a promise to come. What an exciting and scary time – all rolled into one.
As we approach this Advent, we are dealing with extraordinary times. Things are out of place. We are not as we ever have been. Caution fills the air. Uneasiness is the sign of the times. We can be easily concerned about all the future holds. Times are not all that much unlike the times of Elizabeth. There is danger ahead. There is more to take in than she could possibly understand. What she can do is hope. She can hope that God is in this. She can hope that God hasn’t forgotten his promises. She can live in a hope of new life. Her hope is not based on her circumstances. Her hope is not based on the powers that be in her world. Her hope is not in those she loves that surround her. Her hope has to be based in God. Her hope has to be focused on God who calls her his beloved. Her hope can only be in God – all else will let her down. There is too much at stake. She can only hope in him.
Where is our hope? What hope do we have? What promises are still being fulfilled all around us? God has not stopped working, even when we miss it all. God is still creating. God is the only place for our hope. He is the only One who fulfills the real hope. May we find hope in HIM today.