The Voice of Elizabeth
I watched as they played together as children — laughing, joking and enjoying life. Yet, I was told time and time again that our joy would not last forever; one day both Jesus’ mother and I would know true sorrow, if I lived long enough to see it.
I am old now, but I was already old when all this begun - ageing, apparently unable to have children and almost at the stage of giving up on life altogether. Yet God had other ideas; he had a plan, and Zechariah and I were part of it.
An angel came and explained to my husband that my infertile womb would soon ‘bear fruit’ and we would have a son. (Not that he was able to tell me any of this at the time, as he had been struck dumb by God due to his unbelief.) The child would be a herald of God and we were to give him the name John.
About six months into my pregnancy, we had a visit from a cousin of mine. We had a surprising amount in common: she too had become pregnant and she too had been spoken to by an angel; she too was going to have a son — one who would redeem the nation in his later life.
We had been told that John, our son, would be full of the Holy Spirit even before his birth. It wasn’t till Mary arrived, however, that I began to understand the meaning of this prophecy. As she walked slowly up our path, the child inside me began to leap and dance, as he and I somehow realised that we were in the presence of greatness.
In our country the custom is for young people to respect their elders and seek to serve where it is appropriate. On this occasion, however, I bowed low and offered myself to Mary’s service, despite my age and my grey hair. She was a girl who was willing to come under public scrutiny, to have people talking about her behind her back, to be spat on in the street and subjected to the cruel laws that awaited unmarried mothers. Indeed, she was willing to put her life on hold in order to give birth to God’s son and to undergo everything that would come with that.
She had to weigh up what her “yes” would mean — to her and to her family — just as I had to. Our son would be the forerunner, the one who would set out all that was to come; who would dig up the ground in people’s hearts, make paths straight and prepare the way for the coming Messiah.
While Mary stayed with us, our unborn children bonded. Their mothers sewed and conversed, creating more than mere clothes and blankets, as we prepared for the future and the roles we and our offspring Would play. Together we began to realise that our lives would not be easy- We placed our hands in one another’s, understanding what a terrible burden it was to be chosen by God. Tears flowed freely, God’s Spirit was with us and our hearts gradually began to beat in time with the divine.
God of new birth,
I pray for those I know who are expecting children.
Protect these unborn infants and bring them to a place of
knowing Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
I pray for those I know who have lost children.
Comfort them this Christmas;
may they become aware of your presence and love this season.
Help me to be family-focused,
and to centre my life around your church family
so that together we can show love to our community.