“You’re pregnant!” As a woman who’s carried two babies, I can tell you that those words bring happiness or fear, and oftentimes both at the same time. When I heard the news at 23, I was excited and scared. It was my first child, and I had no idea what I was getting into. But as crazy as that time of my life was, it would pale in comparison to the insanity I would feel if I got that news today at 54! [swoons] I can’t even imagine. All of which makes me wonder: What in the world did Elizabeth think when she became pregnant with John the Baptist?
Luke is the only Gospel writer who even tells a portion of Elizabeth’s story. A descendant of Moses’ brother Aaron, Elizabeth was married to a priest named Zechariah. They had no children and were both “advanced in years.” But in Luke 1, Gabriel—an angel of the Lord—appears to Zechariah and tells him that his wife Elizabeth “will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” and he “will be great before the Lord…filled with the Holy Spirit.” In disbelief, Zechariah questions the angel and is struck mute in response.
Shortly afterwards, Elizabeth became pregnant. Luke tells us that she stayed hidden for five months, unable even to speak to her husband, who would remain mute until the child was born. Why did Elizabeth hide? Was she worried about telling others? Did she fear the judgment of other women who would look at her as too old to carry, birth, and raise a child? Maybe she had some of the same thoughts and worried that she wouldn’t be able to do any of those things successfully. Whatever the reason, she hid her growing belly from everyone and remained silent—until her relative Mary showed up at her door.
Mary had also been visited by Gabriel and (unknown to Elizabeth) was pregnant with Jesus when she arrived. Luke tells us that at the moment the women greeted each other, the baby leaped in Elizabeth’s womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth cried out, calling Mary the mother of my Lord. Knowledge and words that could’ve only been given to her by God.
“Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.”
That’s where Luke leaves us. There are no details of anything from those three months they spent together, and Elizabeth isn’t mentioned in any other book of the Bible. But I can guarantee you that those two women—both pregnant at inopportune times and in miraculous ways—rejoiced in the time they spent together, marveled at their miraculously burgeoning bellies, and impatiently and fearfully waited for the arrival of God’s gifts to them and the world.
Holy Father, thank you for not only providing Jesus with the voice of John preparing the way for him, but also for the companionship and reassurance that Elizabeth and Mary gave to each other in preparing the way for your ultimate salvation and grace. Be with us during this Advent season as we, too, learn to wait in the season of the ‘already’ and ‘not yet.’ Amen.