Something’s missing from the nativity

Engaged. Pregnant under suspicious circumstances. Perplexed.

If someone came to us with a story like Mary’s today, we would laugh at them and not believe a word they said. I’m thinking that the circumstances in Mary’s time were close to the same, if not worse.

Is it any wonder then, that after her visit from the angel Gabriel, Mary went directly to her cousin Elizabeth’s house? Elizabeth was experiencing some strange things herself.

Advanced in years. Barren. Suddenly pregnant, and her husband unable to speak.

Imagine that moment. A meeting of two women, chosen by God to carry the two men who would usher in a new covenant for His people. The mothers of John the Baptist and Jesus, having a prenatal playdate.

Elizabeth says that when she heard Mary’s voice the baby literally leaped within her womb.

And how does Elizabeth greet her? With blessing, with belief, with encouragement.

I love this picture of one woman ministering to another. This part of the story is not included in the Christmas pageants or carols. However, I think we’re given a beautiful example of what the body of Christ, the church, is intended to be.

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Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Luke 1:42

Mary’s pregnancy would have caused her to be a curse to her family. Matthew tells how Joseph had made up his mind to quietly send Mary away, rather than publicly shame her and her family.

The timing of this family visit isn’t clear, so at this time Mary still might have been unsure of whether or not Joseph would go through with the marriage. For Elizabeth to greet her in such a way must have been a balm to her heart!

Jesus says in the gospels that because of Him, we will receive curses. Because of Him, His mother would have been cursed, and now He’s letting countless others know that they will endure the same. Mary ran to Elizabeth, someone who would be able to relate to the strangeness that she was experiencing. In that same way, we can look to each other for blessing when the curses of the world seem overwhelming.

My favorite blessing comes from Numbers 6. It is the blessing that the LORD tells Moses to have Aaron and his sons say over the nation of Israel:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.

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And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. Luke 1:43-44

Not only did Elizabeth bless Mary, she immediately exclaimed her belief in Mary’s story. By calling her “the mother of my Lord” and offering Mary the proof of a physical reaction to the sound of her voice, Elizabeth showed her faith in God’s plan.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1 that God chooses the foolish and weak things of this world to shame the wise and strong. Elizabeth was a barren, old woman. I’m sure many in her community, maybe even herself, had given her up as a loss. Mary was a young woman, but the way that God chose to use her does not make logical sense. Why would God want the birth of His Son to be tainted by rumors of an out-of-wedlock conception? There must have been people who always wondered.

God does not always work with us in a logical, to us, manner. To have people who come alongside of you and support you as you follow God’s path for your life, is to have more than silver or gold. We all will have doubts about what God’s telling us to do. It’s in those times we need the belief of others to bolster us up; to stand in agreement with us.

Elizabeth was that person for Mary. She believed in her. She trusted God’s plan for Mary.

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And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord. Luke 1:45

Elizabeth blessed her cousin when others would curse her. She believed her, in an unbelievable situation. And, lastly, Elizabeth encouraged Mary.

Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel was, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

Mary believed.

That what God promised would come to fulfillment. That He would work out all the details. That she would be ok.

And Elizabeth saw and acknowledged that belief.

It’s nice to be noticed; to have someone say, “I saw you, good for you!” We are to build each other up, as the body of Christ. That includes acknowledging the good we see in others. So often we’re ready to point out the faults and the failures, the things people are already very aware of.

We also need to be prepared to point out the high notes, the wins, the faith.

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My nativity is set up in my living room. I have Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus. I have 2-3/4 wise men (one’s missing a head), a shepherd and some farm animals. I’m missing this little scene from Luke.

And I think it’s important for us to remember it this Christmas season.

Remember to bless those around us. Remember to stand by them and support them. Remember to encourage them and acknowledge the good you see in them.

Remember the work of the Spirit before Jesus was ever born.

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