"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." Luke 1:39-40 (NIV)
When I was pregnant with our firstborn, I carried around a well-marked copy of the book, What to Expect When You're Expecting, counting on its practical wisdom to get me through those scary (yet exciting) months.
With our next child, I turned to a close friend who was also expecting her second. We exchanged advice, discussed at length the many joys and discomforts of pregnancy, and cheered each other on as our delivery dates drew near. If you need a listening ear, a friend who is walking the same path is a great place to turn.
Surely that was the case 2,000 years ago for Mary and Elizabeth, who didn't even expect to be expecting. Mary was a virgin, betrothed to Joseph. Elizabeth was an older, barren woman, married to Zechariah the priest. When we first meet them in the Bible, neither woman could imagine being pregnant. But God was already on the move.
When Gabriel brought Mary the good news of the Son she would bear, the angel offered this word of encouragement: "Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month" (Luke 1:36, NIV).
No wonder Mary took off for Zechariah's house! Elizabeth might actually believe her miraculous story. Today's key verse assures us young Mary "got ready and hurried," eager to connect with the one person who would understand her situation: a pregnant kinswoman who shared Mary's faith in a wonder-working God.
If you're bursting with news about something the Lord has done in your life — an answer to prayer, a long-awaited blessing, a surprising provision — you don't want to spill the beans to just anyone. Like Mary, you long to tell somebody who will get it. A friend who will say, "Praise God!" instead of, "Lucky you."
Besides, who else could Mary tell? Her young friends? Her neighbors in Nazareth? "Hey, I just had a visit from an angel, and I'll be giving birth to God's Son."
Right. Not happening. Mary needed Elizabeth, just as we need a friend who will listen without judgment and offer wise counsel because she's been there — or is there right now.
The moment Mary arrived, another miracle occurred. "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb" (Luke 1:41a, NIV). If a mom-to-be eats something sweet or drinks something cold, an unborn child often responds with a swift kick. But this was different: "and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit," (Luke 1:41b, NIV).
Can you fathom the emotions and sensations that must have washed over Elizabeth? An urge to laugh and cry at once, a sense of being flooded with sunlight and fresh air, an overwhelming desire to shout with joy. And shout she did. "In a loud voice she exclaimed: 'Blessed are you among women ...'" (Luke 1:42a, NIV).
Think of it! Two ordinary women bound together by an extraordinary God, empowered by His Holy Spirit.
Mary and Elizabeth had a friendship that shines through the ages. Shared faith, shared joy, shared experience. If you need someone to listen, advise and empathize, consider a woman you know who could use that same kind of support from you. When encouragement flows both directions and honors the Lord, that's a friendship that will go the distance.
Lord, You will always be our closest friend, our best source of counsel, the first place we turn. Thank You for also providing earthly friends who help us keep our focus on You, every season of the year. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 27:9b, "The pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice." (NIV)
Psalm 94:19, "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy." (NIV)
Proverbs 17:17a, "A friend loves at all times." (NIV)
RELATED RESOURCES: Learn more about the special bond of friendship between Mary and Elizabeth, as Liz Curtis Higgs unwraps their stories in The Women of Christmas, preparing your heart for this holy season.
Visit Liz's blog for more encouragement.
REFLECT AND RESPOND: A godly friend is one of the kindest gifts the Lord could bestow on us. In this season of giving and receiving, think of a woman you know who might benefit from a word of encouragement drawn from your well of experience.
What specifically could you do for her? Say to her? Provide for her? The gift of praying for her daily might not come wrapped in a bow, but would surely be the one thing she needs most in the coming year.
© 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs. Adapted from The Women of Christmas. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org