Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Christmas Story: The Joyful Visit

As we read yesterday, Mary got amazing news from an angel of the Lord. I'm guessing she had never spoken to an angel before, much less expected that God would choose her to be the mother of His son. So I'm thinking after the angel left, Mary was pretty overwhelmed with this news and needed a friend. I would think she needed someone to talk to about all that she was just told. I certainly would, wouldn't you?

God always knows our needs. He knows what is going to happen in our lives before the event even begins to unfold. God knows when we will need support and I believe He puts that support into place for us long before we know we are even going to need it.

In the passage from yesterday, the angel told Mary that her relative Elizabeth was pregnant as well. Mary needed support. She was pregnant, unmarried, and carrying God's child. Yes, Mary needed someone to help her through this time...so she went to see Elizabeth.

Mary's visit with Elizabeth is found in Luke 1:39 - 56:
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
    for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

The contrast between these two women was pretty incredible, and yet they now had something amazing in common as well. Elizabeth was "well along in years" and six months pregnant with the baby she had wanted all of her adult life. She had been a faithful servant to God, and after all these years, her dreams were finally coming true with her miracle baby.

Mary was young, innocent, not even married...and certainly not thinking about being a mother yet! She too was a faithful servant of God...so faithful that when a angel appeared before her, and told her she would be carrying God's child, she didn't question God. She gracefully accepted the gift of her miracle baby.

What a relief it must have been for Mary to walk into Elizabeth's home and to be greeted not only so warmly, but with understanding about what was going on in her life! When Mary arrived at Zechariah and Elizabeth's home, God gave Elizabeth the perfect words to welcome Mary: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!"

Mary knew from the moment she walked through the door, that amazingly, Elizabeth understood! The incredible blessing of what was happening fell upon Mary, and she immediately began singing praises to God.

She felt loved, honored, and blessed. What a sweet moment.

This part of the Christmas Story is often overlooked. When you read books, see movies, plays, or musicals about Jesus birth, Mary's visit to Elizabeth isn't really a big part of the story. I think that's a shame because it is such an wonderful reminder of how God provides for all our needs. God knew Mary was going to need understanding and support. He knew what Mary was facing wasn't going to be easy.

Have you ever had something so big going on in your life that it was just overwhelming? Did you go to someone in hopes that they would understand and encourage you? Have you felt the great comfort that comes when you know you have someone standing with you through something difficult?

While nothing has ever happened to me that is on the scale of Mary's story, I do understand needing someone to be there in support. I know that incredible feeling when someone says just the right thing and lifts me up in much needed encouragement.

Like Mary, I also know what it's like to realize that what is going on in my life might not be what I was expecting...or even hoping for...but God's plan is so much better...amazingly incredibly better.  And sometimes when I realize it...I sing God's praises as well!

I just love the Elizabeth and Mary part of The Christmas Story. This entire scene makes me smile as I imagine what it must have been like for these two women during their joyful visit. And isn't that just like God to set this all up so that these two faithful women can share in their blessings together?

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