We don’t always deal well with the silence of God. A godly, priestly couple hoped for children. “They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly…” (Luke 1:5). If you knew they were not going to have a child for a long time, would you tell them? God was silent. The neighbors were not. They gave her the “b” word, “barren,” as in “barren desert.”
God chose to visit the priest on his turn in the temple, decades later. Gabriel showed up and scared the old man. He announced the birth of a son who would be “great before the Lord” (15), would be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb, and would be used to bring revival. Had resentment toward heaven set in for hope deferred? We don’t know, but he asks for a sign. Come on, Zach. When was the last time an archangel showed up for church?
He went into a nine-month timeout. Elizabeth went into seclusion for five months, making it rather quiet in the priestly home. She didn’t want neighbors mocking: “Elizabeth is hallucinating. Miss Barren thinks she’s pregnant.” Five months would stop brutal tongues.
Then Gabriel pays a return visit up the road about seventy miles. A single young girl is soon to carry the Son of God. She asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (34). No thoughts like, “I had better hurry up and marry my man.” Didn’t have a husband–wouldn’t need one. The Holy Spirit would come upon her, and the power of the Most High would overshadow her. She said two things: “I’m the doulos (bondservant) of the Lord.” In other words, no will of my own. I serve the will of the Lord. Then she said, “Let it be…” Call it total submission!
The angel lets her know that another miracle is taking place in Aunt Elizabeth. Mary wisely decides that she is going to need the counsel of her relative and lets Joseph know she will be gone. Who better could prepare her for a life of rejection? When she returns she will be showing. Ridicule came to Elizabeth for having no baby. It will come to Mary for carrying one.
Elizabeth has been rejoicing in God during her retreat. He lifted the shame. They had been favored, not forgotten. She was so much in the Spirit, that when Mary arrived, her five-month old baby “leaped for joy,” sensing the presence of Jesus less than a centimeter in the womb of Mary. She prophesied, blessing Mary for believing the impossible word of the angel. After five rich months of seclusion, she took three months to pour into the young adult who would raise her Lord.
Elizabeth gave birth a month later. When Zechariah wrote down the name of the son, not Zechariah as tradition anticipated, but the name given by the angel, his speech returned. What was inside came out–praise and prophecy. Resentment, if there was any, had been dealt with. People were stirred when he announced the saving work of God and the contribution this little baby would one day make.
When a prince is born, the world knows. Hardly anyone was stirred when Mary’s boy was born, just a few shepherds, on the low end of the social totem pole, and a massive choir of angels in the sky announcing the birth, maybe a bit baffled by the crowd. Days later as the couple paid their tax, the Roman official said, “Name? Joseph. Married? Yes. Name? Mary. Children? Yes. How many? One. Name?” Joseph paused: “Jesus!”