One of my husband’s favorite tidbits of wisdom came from Fr. Mike Schmitz. Though it was a video he made awhile ago (I’ll have to go searching for the link), a snippet of it has stuck with Chris for a good amount of time.
This smidgen of goodness was about the Annunciation, about it’s miraculous nature, it’s mystery… about how an angel asks Mary to do this incredible thing — you know, carry and nurture GOD — she says yes, and then the angel departs…
Think about that for a second… Mary just conceived the Son of God, and then the angel leaves.
As in, she doesn’t get very much information about what’s going to happen next…or how this is all going to play out…or what she should tell her family…or Joseph…
God does not tell Mary what’s going to happen next, He leaves her to it. And that is what boggles my husband’s mind. God leaves Mary alone with this secret (not in an abandoning way or anything), giving her an opportunity to trust, but also to process… to take it all in… to ponder things in her heart.
I like to remind Chris, that although Mary has been left to “fend for herself” (not totally, but in a way), God has not left her completely in the dark. He has given her reassurance that she can trust Him through all the unknown.
The angel Gabriel revealed something else during his visit:
“And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:36-37).
Elizabeth is pregnant!
“Oh… that’s nice!” we might think, especially since this is a woman who had been unable to have children throughout her child-bearing years. But this happening is so much bigger than just that. We just need some context to see it.
More Than a Relative
Mary was dedicated to the service of the Temple from the time she was a toddler. This means that Mary did not live with her parents in Nazareth. She either lived in the Temple, or close by — possibly with her kinsmen Zechariah (a priest) and Elizabeth. Even if she did not live with the couple, Mary was certain to have seen them on a daily basis.
She was probably about three years old at the time she began her duties as a Temple virgin. She was young, far from home and her closest relatives were childless. It’s logical to assume that a deep bond developed between Elizabeth and Mary during this time, possibly one similar to the bond between a mother and a child.
Mary also would have had first-hand experience of Elizabeth’s heartbreak… surely she saw Elizabeth shed tears over her infertility. She probably heard others’ unkind remarks and gossip about her cousin. She saw everyone pity her and question Elizabeth’s worth as a wife…
Most likely, as Mary grew and matured, Elizabeth and Mary had heart-to-heart conversations. I imagine Mary saw both Elizabeth’s incredible anguish, as well as her great faith and dedication to the Lord. In all things, Elizabeth would have been an example of holiness for the Blessed Virgin, as well as a friend and mother-figure.
Answered Prayers & Healed Wounds
Knowing all this, can you imagine the emotions of Mary’s heart upon hearing the news that Elizabeth is six months pregnant? Surely it soared… which is probably why Mary arose and went “with haste” to Jerusalem (the city of Judah).
With her own eyes, Mary saw the impossible. In a woman she loved dearly and had carried a burden alongside for years, God showed Mary that nothing is insurmountable. And that same fidelity He had shown to Elizabeth, He was going to show to her.
Through Elizabeth, Mary learned faithfulness; both that God fulfills His promises … and also that He rewards those who are steadfast in their faith.
Elizabeth’s pregnancy was a sign for Mary… a sign that nothing was impossible and everything was going to be okay.
Your Own “Elizabeth”
God does not abandon us — even when He leaves us “alone.” He rarely illuminates the whole path before us, but He always faithful, giving assurance to those who love Him and seek to do His will.
If you find yourself in a difficult spot this Advent, ask God to send you an Elizabeth to help!
Lord, for those of us who find ourselves in times of uncertainty, I ask that you send each one of us an “Elizabeth,” an assurance of Your actions in this world and in our own personal lives. Amen.