Elizabeth en Mary

Elizabeth en Mary, two women without whom there would be no Christmas

Only when I was expecting I realized how remarkable the story of Elizabeth en Mary is. It is about two women, related to each other, who are both pregnant, but conceived in a miraculous way.

When Mary visited Elizabeth she was just pregnant and probably no one knew yet. Unmarried teenage mothers weren’t very popular in those days. An additional issue was that her fiancé wasn’t the father of the child. Her story wasn’t very plausible as well: “I am pregnant of God and my son will be the long expected Messiah.”

I think Mary wondered the first few weeks is she didn’t imagine things. You don’t see of feel anything of your baby then. Maybe you feel a little different, but that also can be a virus or something like that.

The angel Gabriel who paid Mary a visit told her Elizabeth, her relative, was also expecting. Elizabeth and her husband were unable to conceive and they were both very old now. But now she is six months pregnant, curious. Mary is going to see her.

I don’t know what Zechariah wrote down of the vision he had. He probably will have told his wife they were going to have a baby. And when she was pregnant he may have told her that their son will go on before the Messiah and that he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. That he will act in the spirit and power of Elijah He probably didn’t share this with everybody. People don’t react too well to these kind of claims.

Elizabeth remained the first five months in seclusion. This kind of news needs to be processed. Going on before the Messiah implicates you won’t have to wait very long before the Messiah himself will come. In that era everybody knew that the Messiah would come to establish his kingdom of peace, but that this will be preceded by a judgement, because only the just can be part of the kingdom of peace. That’s why he will call upon the people to return to God.

Like Mary, Elizabeth will have questioned if this would all be true.

And then both women meet and something very touching happens: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb.”

The unborn child of Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, recognized Mary and Elizabeth herself also filled with the Holy Spirit recognized the child of Mary.

For both this is the moment they know for sure it is true; one is carrying the child that will prepare the way, the other is carrying the Messiah. Unbelievable, Two women who are no one special and do nothing special, are going to play a decisive part in the most grand event in the history of the world. Unsure and doubting, hoping it is true, they make room for God in their lives.

Undoubtedly they were happy with their sons, proud of their development and spiritual growth. They became two very special men of God en everything seems to go well. Until they ‘radicalise’. Really start acting in the spirit and power of Elijah, really perform miracles as to be expected from the Messiah. Until they get followers and the occupying Romans look at it with suspicion, just like the Jewish leaders. They don’t keep quiet those two and they are not ‘politically correct’. So the end of the story is they both are murdered by the Romans.

What than would have remained of the hope and the faith of Elizabeth and Mary? What would the neighbours have said and the family? This wasn’t expected. What do you mean, prepare the way, what do you mean, Messiah? What happened to that kingdom of peace?

Is Christmas no more than a fairy-tale? Or is the story not yet finished? With Advent we expect the coming of the Christ, the Messiah. Not just as a child in a manger, but also as the King who will establish the kingdom of peace. We hope, sometimes doubting and insecure, but believe it is true, no matter what.

The story of Elizabeth en Mary can be found in in Luke 1

Painting is “Begegnung Maria und Elisabeth” by Alfons Eugen Drews