How Christmas began, 3

I BLESSED THE MOTHER OF MY LORD (Luke 1: 5-66).

I am Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah and mother of John the Baptist. I am also the cousin to Mary, mother of Jesus, my Lord. My husband and I were both descendants of Aaron the first Priest of our Hebrew people. I was named after Aaron’s wife; namely, Elisheba. It meant that God was an “oath” and that He kept His promises. In time, my name became Elizabeth. There were three hidden meanings in my name. Eli stood for “the Lord is exalted,” zabad meant “a gift.” In this sense a gift from the Lord or Yahweh. The ending “beth” meant a house or a home. Together, my name meant that God’s promise would come through and my house or family would exalt or praise Him. And indeed I became a miracle woman. Like Sarah and Hanna of old, I too was barren and the Lord blessed me with a son in my old age. And like the angel promised Abraham that his son Isaac would continue his seed, the angel promised my husband Zechariah that our son John would usher in the age of the New Israel. That, in itself, would have been the highest honor any mother could have. My son was to be the long-predicted forerunner of the Anointed One of God. What a thrill that was to be the mother of the one that would introduce the Savior to the world!

There was much more, a lot more that would cause my soul to praise the Lord. I was carrying my baby beneath my heart when an unexpected visitor arrived and greeted me with the best of wishes. It was the voice of Mary, my cousin. At her greeting, my baby within me began to be restless, in a way that it had never been before. Immediately, I experienced a spiritual filling and began to speak words that I would never have said on my own. It was definitely the prompting of God’s Spirit. I told Mary, “You are the most blessed among women and so is the son you will bear. What have I done to deserve that the mother of my Lord should visit me? The very moment my baby heard your voice it leaped for joy. You are indeed blessed because you believe what the Lord has promised will be fulfilled.” Of course, Mary joined right in with her words of praise to the Lord. She had accepted her role as a precious tool of bringing God’s only Son into the world. For the next three months, we lived on the highest cloud of heaven. We had the best and highest reason to feel blessed and elevated. In our wombs we carried the fruits of the Lord God and the hope of redemption for our people.

Mary went home to be united with Joseph and I tried to communicate with a husband that had lost his voice. We were religious, but not to the point of believing the impossible. How could two old people produce a child at our age? That was what the angel of the Lord had told my husband and he could not believe it. To stop him from spreading his unbelief and prove that God will keep His promise, the angel took away his voice until he would name his son John. So, for nine months, we lived together in silence and my doubting husband watched God performing a miracle in my womb. When my day of delivery arrived and I bore a son, I named him “John.” My relatives objected on the grounds that no one in our family was ever named John. They turned to my husband and wanted to know what his choice for a name would be. He pointed for a tablet to write on and then inscribed these words, “John is his name.” Everybody was astounded. Then we all were even more amazed when my husband Zechariah began to speak words of praise, of promise and of prosperity. The words that touched my heart the most were that our son would be called the “Prophet of the Most High” and that he will go before the Lord and prepare His way. He will lead our people to repent and return to the covenant of our fathers. Once more God would be merciful, forgive us our sins and grant us peace. Never before did I see my husband so inspired and filled with the Spirit of the Lord. What an outpouring of blessing had come to our humble place and our longing and lonely hearts. I, too, could hold my head high among the women of our nation.

I, too, became a mother. What I had yet to learn was that my son was not normal by our human standards. He did not mix with or fit in with the other children. He had a yearning for the outdoors. He began to steal away into lonely places and began to fantasize that he was like Elijah the prophet. Like the prophet, our son believed that he should live off the land and not pollute himself with foods that were prepared by human hands. Just think, our son became a hermit and lived off locusts and wild honey? His only shelter was a heavy fur coat and his weapon a strong belt about his waistline. This was not at all the picture that we had in our minds what our son should be, and especially one that was going to play a major role in the arrival of our national leader, one like Moses. To us it seemed that we had failed in parenting. Perhaps we were too old to have a son. But then we asked ourselves, why God had given John to us in the first place? His purpose most definitely was different from ours. Again, we began to trust the Lord that He would direct our son where he should go and what he had to do. We took comfort in the fact that God was the Lord of promises and that He would carry out His purpose and that it may turn out contrary to what we expected. Our age was against us, for us to see how it would all turn out, and how our son John would make out in the larger scheme of God’s plan? For us, the past and the present were sufficient to know that God would not let our son down. God will be with him as He was with us. He made real for us the impossible and so He shall for the one that is to be the Prophet of the Most High.