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As I moved through different seasons of my life as an adult, each season increased my desire for older women to be a part of my life and I often sought them out for their wisdom and knowledge. An extra bonus was the patience they demonstrated as they listened to my questions or ramblings about my own life.
Even though we live in a culture where age does not tend to be valued as highly as youth. One thing seems evident. There are some seasons and circumstances that seem to naturally nudge us to look to an older person. It is especially true when we are facing something totally new and perhaps scary. We look for someone who has experienced it and can give us the information we seek as well as model the courage we need to face it ourselves.
One common time for us as women is when we become pregnant with our first child. Oh, yes, we like hearing how our friends have experienced it and what they can share. They know all the latest things we need for the nursery and where the best places are to buy them. But sooner or later, we will invariably seek out an older woman whom we trust and respect for the type of knowledge no one else can impart.
Nothing can replace the lived experience of someone who has traveled the path that now lies ahead of us.
As I continue to read the passages in Luke and Matthew journeying toward Bethlehem and Christmas Eve, what Mary chooses to do after the news Gabriel delivers to her makes a great deal of sense. In addition to learning she, a virgin, would bear a child who would be the Son of God, Gabriel tells her that her cousin Elizabeth is now in the sixth month of her own pregnancy despite being old and barren. Gabriel adds that “nothing will be impossible with God” not only to point to Elizabeth’s pregnancy, but perhaps also as an encouragement to Mary about what is about to happen to her.
Scripture does not say when or how she told her parents the news. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be. Her news might mean Joseph would divorce her or that she might be stoned. There is no precise information about when or how she told Joseph the news either.
One thing is certain.
The Lord had entrusted a great deal on His call on this young teen’s life!
What scripture does tell us is that she “made haste” to go visit Elizabeth. I resonate with that decision. There was another older woman who had a special call on her life and was pregnant despite having been old and barren. Gabriel had spoken to her as well so Mary probably felt sure Elizabeth would understand and be able to possibly give her wise counsel.
I think it’s unlikely Mary would head out on this trip without her parents approval and knowledge. I might also think she would have an escort since it would not be wise or safe for a virgin to travel unaccompanied. Maybe this was also space for Mary’s parents to come to grips with what she had told them and let her get out of the village for awhile as they considered what to do next.
What scripture is clear about is Mary quickly left Nazareth and headed for the hill country to an unnamed town in Judah to see Elizabeth. As soon as they saw each other, the Lord confirmed to both women that each was carrying a very special son because the baby inside Elizabeth leapt as soon as he heard Mary’s voice and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
We also know from that same passage that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months. What a special time that must have been for both women! I would have loved to hear more about the conversations they must have had about God’s election of each of them and how they would be forever linked more powerfully than through their biologic relationship.
As a woman, I am sure there were some practical things being discussed between these two women. What would labor and delivery be like? How would they go about mothering these babies whose lives would change the world? What was going to happen when Mary returned to Nazareth? Would Joseph still marry her?
Elizabeth and Mary had both been favored by God to be chosen. I might think they would be filled with wonder and talk with each other about why they might have been chosen. Neither could yet know the pain that would pierce their hearts, as each would have her son die far too early in life.
What a gift for God to give Mary! An older woman with whom she could share this unique journey!
Elizabeth demonstrated what Paul describes as a Titus 2 woman, “teaching what is good so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”