The Christmas Gift of Vulnerability
“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting from Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is the granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1:29-45
All I can think when I read this passage is, “Wow, God’s tenderness, mercy, and compassion towards us and our stories is unbelievable.” I see his love for Elizabeth and Mary pouring out over their stories, with a particular waterfall of tenderness and beauty over their greeting. The richness of the stories of these two women cannot be underestimated.
Elizabeth had been infertile, and now suddenly her decades long prayer has been answered with a child who will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even while he is still in her womb. What a miraculous act of God’s compassion on Elizabeth and Zechariah’s marriage and purpose! After a lifetime of yearning for a child, these two receive the gift of parenting the one who will prepare the way for the Savior of the world. WOW!
Mary, a seemingly insignificant teenage girl, has just been told she will miraculously give birth to the highly anticipated (to say the least) Savior of the world. This put her in a vulnerable place in her town, and I am sure she had many questions, fears, and thrills. She goes to Elizabeth for a safe place to be vulnerable enough to ask, “What the heck is going on?” and “Is this going to turn out ok?” and “How exactly is this going to happen?” She knew Elizabeth, whose husband and lineage was a priestly one, had the resources to explain the prophecies and Scriptures to her.
Which leads us to the greeting of these two expectantly pregnant women: miraculous, sudden, full of joy, and well, emotional.
Mary and Elizabeth are sharing that joyous moment where you are so excited to see one another you can barely stand it. Every time I get together with my cousin I get to enjoy this “you get it” moment, where your soul can just relax in the understanding and love you have for one another.
I see God’s mercy in the way Elizabeth greets Mary with not only the fullness of grace, but excitement and blessing. She speaks life-giving blessing and belief into Mary at a critical point in her life, when many questions are swirling around her. What relief this must have been to Mary!
I see God’s tenderness these two women form the first theological discussion group about the incarnation! Not the scholars and scribes who had bee studying and pontificating about this moment for centuries, but these two women on whom God’s tenderness and favors rests, get to be the first ones to contemplate all that this reality means. It is to them that God gives all the juicy details, the main roles.
I see God’s compassion in the intentionality of the collision of Elizabeth and Mary’s stories in the midst of a season of loneliness for both. Elizabeth has just spent five months in seclusion (Luke 1:24), and all the women her age were well past their pregnancy years, leaving her physically and emotionally lonely. Though it was custom to become pregnant as a teenager in those days, the mysterious circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy quickly isolated her. How do you explain at fifteen to your friends that an angel of the Lord told you that you would be the one to carry the fulfillment to a century old national prophesy? I see God’s compassion flowing as a river over these hidden, lonely places in their heart.
Where are you seeing God’s tenderness in your story during this season?
What is the place inside of you that you want to share but just can’t get out?
I admire the vulnerability of Mary and Elizabeth in this story and their willingness to receive God’s favor. This Christmas let’s live in the beauty of vulnerability in light of God’s tenderness, mercy, and compassion water falling over us.