Monday, December 19, 2011

Elizabeth and His tender mercy

Indeed, the story of Mary, the teenaged unwed mother chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, is amazing and inspirational. Her unquestioning faith is exemplary.

But what about Mary’s cousin Elizabeth? In Scripture Elizabeth is referred to twice as being “advanced in years.” I figured that being “advanced in years” in the year 1 BC was probably something like 30 years old. Girls got married at 13 and it seemed likely that they were considered old by the time they were 30. So I looked it up and found that biblical scholars think Elizabeth was well beyond the usual childbearing age, probably in her 60s. Holy Mother of God—instead of getting an AARP card, she got pregnant! In the year 1 BC it took the Angel Gabriel to facilitate a pregnancy where even IVF clinics would fail today.

Like her cousin Mary, Elizabeth had remarkable faith. And unlike her husband Zechariah, she was not bitter about her childlessness and she didn’t doubt God’s plan. She joyfully, with humility, accepted the news that she was going to give birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah.

I become a little weak in the knees when I hear this story because I’m about Elizabeth’s age at the time she gave birth. I probably would have bristled at the news that I was going to have a baby when I’m so “advanced in years,” even though the child was destined to have an important role in the life of Jesus. (I guessing the angel didn’t tell Elizabeth and Zechariah that their son was going to be beheaded—it might have been a deal breaker.) But here’s the part that gives me hope—even though Elizabeth was growing old, God was not yet finished with her. He answered her prayer and used her to accomplish something very important.

In the words of Zechariah (Luke 1:74-78)

. . . that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God.

Even when we’re old—maybe especially when we’re old—we can rely on the tender mercy of our God.

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