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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31 thoughts on “Something’s missing from the nativity

  1. Building each other up in this season and beyond. I feel so alive after reading the verse from Numbers. I’m so blessed that you shared it with us. So many wonderful reminders here. I’m really going to enjoy this Christmas. Everyone is feeding my focus toward Jesus more and more. Thank You Melissa.

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  3. Melissa….I love this post! I love it because I can think of precise times in which my sisters in Christ have lifted me up when I felt discouraged. It was their encouragement, their seeing into my heart, and seeing God’s best that pushed me through a tough situation. Sometimes it can be really hard to see the forest for the the trees when you’re down and out. But, when God sends someone to speak truth into your life, it’s, well, like you said, a BALM! When I’ve had doubts, troubles, been in despair, the prayers of the saints have stripped those things away from me and lifted me up. And the most meaningful times is when it has comes unexpectedly-like God has personally commissioned a friend with the task of encouraging me.

    • You’re so right, Keri! The most meaningful times are when it comes unexpectedly-like. :) I had someone encourage me, unexpectedly, last night and it was so soothing. What’s funny is that God told me to stand there and take it. Normally I have such a tendency to negate or brush-off compliments or encouragement. I think God gave me this post to write to remind me to allow others to be Elizabeths to me. :)

  4. I was thinking about this not too long ago. If God had tarried in sending Jesus to earth the first time until today’s age no one would think twice about a pregnant, unwed woman. Sure we’d call her crazy for saying she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit and then make jokes about so that’s what we’re calling him now huh.

    I agree with Keri I love how you used balm. We know nothing of Mary’s pregnancy. We don’t know if she had morning sickness, complications (after all the enemy would no doubt do anything to try and not let the pregnancy finish out), plus the ridicule she faced from her village, her family, even Joseph like you said was going to put her away. The people she needed most all abandoned her. But Elizabeth. What joy she must have felt herself having witnessed Mary pregnant and her own son jumping for joy at the fruition of the redemption of man.

    This was wonderful!

    • Thanks, Prudy! :) I can totally picture people making fun of her today, and it just makes me wonder if she wasn’t treated the exact same way back then. Growing up I’d always pictured Mary as a young pregnant mother of today…anticipating, nesting and expectant. But she had a lot to deal with, and I’m sure her pregnancy with Jesus was not blissful. Kind of makes me think about what our expectation for the coming of Jesus is. We all expect it to be a peaceful life once we’re saved, and in reality we have a lot of ridicule and junk to deal with.

    • It kind of makes me want to go back and reread all of the accounts to see what else I’m overlooking. The story has grown so familiar from use that I don’t always take it all in. :) Thanks, Kristine

  5. Thanks for the reminder to bless those around me. Can you imagine how much healthier the body of Christ would be if we would all follow Jesus’ example and give blessings?

    • That’s why we can truly say that scripture is alive. You can sit down and read the same passage you’ve read so many times before, and the Holy Spirit will illuminate something new to you. :)

  6. Wonderful post!

    My favorite part of the story of Elizabeth and Mary is how John leapt in the womb when teeny unborn Jesus was near. Whenever I’m pregnant and at church, I imagine my tumbling babe is reacting, on a deep and mysterious level, to being the presence of the Lord. Sigh.

    • Oh, I used to do the same! :) I loved worshiping when I was pregnant because I felt like I was exposing my unborn child to the Holy Spirit. Sigh, indeed.

  7. As I read your words about Elizabeth encouraging Mary, I thought about how many times I let the opportunity to say kind words fly by–especially when those words should be directed at someone I don’t know very well. Sincere encouragement is so crucial to my well-being, it stands to reason that it would be crucial to others, too. Thanks for the reminder.

    PS The site redesign is lovely. :)

  8. I love this post you’ve added to the jam, Melissa. It is an incredibly long scene between two women in the Bible, don’t you think? What a wonderful reminder that God uses REAL PEOPLE to help lift up our spirits, as we await God’s plan. Pregnancy is such an awesome analogy. It’s hard, long, and very toilsome. Friends can make such a difference. I feel our Faith Barista Jams encourage me in this way, too!

    • Me too! Thank you for hosting them each week, Bonnie. I love engaging with everyone on a common theme. And, speaking of God using REAL PEOPLE to help lift our spirits, you have always been that for me. So thank you. :)

  9. It’s easy for me to spot and dwell on the faults. It’s harder sometimes to look for the good and be full of encouragement. But it is so worth it! Great reminder, Melissa. Thanks!

  10. I really love how those two women encourage each other to follow God. I also love Mary’s prayer of praise that follows. “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” I only hope I can surrender my will and accept whatever God has in mind-like she did!

    • I love that prayer of praise that follows too! I took it as an indicator of the impact Elizabeth had on Mary. I felt like after the angel told Mary what was happening, she said, “Ok, I’ll do it.” But it wasn’t until her encounter with Elizabeth that she was able to rejoice in it.

  11. Absolutely beautiful post, Melissa. Stunning imagery to remember in this Christmas season. I love how it reminds us to forget about human logic when it comes to the plans of our Lord. Forget the logic, and trust without hesitation. What an incredible blessing for these two women to have one another in their times of question! Thank you, once again, for a lovely reminder!

    • Forgetting about human logic…that’s one I’m still learning. :) It’s easy to say, but hard to do when you’re in the midst of it. Thank God that His actions are not dependent on my faith, or lack there of. He is faithful at all times!

  12. The movie “the Nativity Story” captures this acceptance and welcome by Elizabeth, and what Mary faced in Nazareth.
    And you’re absolutely right — there’s a lesson in welcome and acceptance for us.

  13. Me too! Thank you for hosting them each week, Bonnie. I love engaging with everyone on a common theme. And, speaking of God using REAL PEOPLE to help lift our spirits, you have always been that for me. So thank you. :)

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