The story of the conception and birth of Jesus is a beautiful and glorious story filled with love and hope and grace. But there is a similar, lesser told story during the same time: the story of Elizabeth.
Luke 1: 36 - 38: "And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a
son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.
For nothing will be impossible with God.’
Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me
according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her."
I honestly felt moved by the spirit to recall and tell this story to you today. Elizabeth was considered old for that time, given that Mary is thought to have been 14, and I wonder if Elizabeth was my age... in her 30s and therefore considered old for that time. I don't know for certain and I could be wrong but the greater idea is there, and she resonates with me today. The story of barren women is prevalent throughout the Bible and Elizabeth's story is not that unique. An old barren woman who has given up on barring children at this point in her life and an angel of the Lord gifts her a child, and an amazing, strong, historical child at that. Stories like these are the ones we hang on to in our darkest days while trying to conceive. We pray to the Lord to remember us as he remembered Sarah, and Rachel and Hannah, knowing that the blessing of fertility and life is God's alone. But as a barren woman who has crossed that 30 year old (ovarian) barrier and who has stopped trying and has stopped hoping (though do we ever really stop hoping?), what does this story mean to me?
I like reading the rest of that passage where Mary says "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me
according to your word." It was not Elizabeth who had said that, but Mary, the unsuspecting innocent maiden, whom God had chosen for the ultimate gift of fertility, being the Mother of God. Talk about having the perfect child! But I do love that passage... Here I am, servant of the Lord.... let it be with me according to your word..... I remember vividly the days and nights of my hysterical, hormonal, grieving, sobs when I felt that God was being unjust and cruel with me, leaving me barren when others around me were not. With a clearer mind, looking back, I know that it was part of the process of healing, and that that pain shaped me, continues to shape me, as a continue to become what God wants of me, according to His Word. I don't yet know if a miracle is in store for me, or if the miracle in my life will take on a different form that what I once hoped it would be. But today I remember the barren... my sisters, those who find some pain the story of Mary and hope in the story of Elizabeth. For everyone the story of the birth of Jesus will fill us in different ways, but all of them still come from the same great Love that can fill our lives and our hearts if we just give it room... let it take hold of us and replace the places of darkness with true, undying light.....the purest, truest light of all.
And this is my Advent wish for you.