ELIZABETH –SOURCE OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. (Luke 1:56)There are several significant persons such as Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, Herod, Zechariah and Elizabeth and groups such as angels, shepherds, wise men, and grieving mothers identified in the Christmas narratives in the gospel of Luke. Mary is the central figure in the Advent narratives related to the birth of Jesus. The Song of Mary is frequently sung or spoken liturgically in Christian church services. The other well-known personality in the Christmas story is her cousin Elizabeth and the mother of John the Baptist. Having received the annunciation from the Angel (Luke 1:26-38), Mary visits Elizabeth, the wife of the famous priest Zechariah.
Why did Mary visit Elizabeth and stay with her during the last trimester of her pregnancy? There could be several reasons for the visit. Mary, a young teenager was carrying a baby before the consummation of her marriage with Joseph. It could be that Mary could not hide her pregnancy any more and visited her to get some prenatal care or advice as Elizabeth was also carrying the promised child. Another reason may be that Mary wanted some physical protection from her community. The pregnancy of an unwed teenager was not tolerated in the village cultural tradition in which Mary grew up. Or it could be that Mary wanted some spiritual reinforcement and encouragement because Elizabeth was a seasoned person with a good reputation in the community. All of these could be the reasons for Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.
She was certainly a source of encouragement in Mary’s life at a very critical time. We may be dedicated Christians and active members of the Church but at times we need to see, interact or listen to someone whom we can trust and spend quality time with confidence and assurance that this person encouraging words to help us stay focused in our life journey. Secondly, Elizabeth was an encourager. Imagine the predicament of a young person like Mary pregnant with a child without adequate social and religious support! Elizabeth served as a confidant of Mary and encouraged her to fulfill the will of God for the salvation of the entire universe.
We, as Christians, have access to Scriptures, and significant persons like the priests, evangelists, teachers and prayer partners to help us in times of special needs. Sometimes, we also need to become like Elizabeth as a source of encouragement and encourager to others who might come to us for help. And at times we also need to seek and consult with persons like Elizabeth for inspiration and guidance in order to fulfill the will of God.
Prayer: Help us, O God, to seek encouragement from others as Mary did and offer encouragement to others as Elizabeth did as we celebrate your coming into the world at this Advent Season and all other seasons of life. Amen
Dr. V. T. Samuel, Sehion Mar Thoma Church, Dallas, Texas