In preparation for Advent we do a lot of waiting. Not the passive type of sitting around to wait and see what will happen, but a more active type of waiting – waiting with anticipation. As we wait for the coming of the Christ child, I imagined what it would be like to be in Mary’s shoes. I’ve been thinking about Mary and her mother as we prepare for advent, especially in light of the fact that I have three daughters. What would I say if my youngest, who is only fourteen, came home and told me she was pregnant by an angel, and it was all part of God’s plan?
I am pregnant. Fourteen years old and pregnant! How am I going to explain this to my mother? I hate to think about it! I know what she’s going to say,“Mary! How could you let this happen? You’re a good girl! And now you’ve brought such humiliation on your father and me and our good name!”
And I’ll try and explain, “But mom, this is God’s doing!”
“God’s doing? How could you blame God?” She’ll say.
“Mom, you’ve got to believe me! An angel came and told me. He called me favored one and told me that the Lord was with me. At first I was confused and afraid, but the angel reassured me. I’m not afraid anymore, mama.”
“But Mary,” she’ll scold, “Nazareth is such a small town–what will the neighbors say? You’ll have to leave town. You can go and stay with our relatives in the south, with Elizabeth and Zachariah, and then you can come back when the baby is born. We’ll tell the neighbors you found him in a basket or something, like Moses.”
“But mama,” I’ll tell her, “I can’t leave, Joseph and I are getting married! And I’m not afraid!”
“Do you think he’ll want to marry you after he finds out what’s happened?”
And so we left that day, taking the route through the mountains. I had never left the house before and everything was new and strange–the trees, the towns, the people. After journeying three long days, we arrived in the barren and sun drenched land of Judea. We were very tired, and we could see Jerusalem in the distance.
My brother dropped me off along the road and continued on to the capital. I have to admit that I was a little scared. After all, I hadn’t seen Elizabeth and Zachariah in a long time! Well, my worry was for nothing. Elizabeth welcomed me into her home with open arm. She was so delighted to see me, and she even said she was delighted that my mother thought of this! Delighted! Soon after I arrived she put my hand on her belly and told me to feel her baby moving inside her. She called for her husband, Zechariah. And she told me how the old man was so shocked when he learned he
was going to be a father that he lost his speech!
Elizabeth treated me like her own daughter and taught me many things: how to weave and cook with red beans–the very ones Rebekah cooked for Isaac. She gave me a lot of self-confidence, especially the day I was washing the clothes in the patio and tripped.
She wondered about the dizzy spells, and when I tried to blame it on the heat, she sat me down. She looked at me, really looked at me. “You’re pregnant aren’t you? Come, let’s talk in the shade,” she said, and took me down under the small grove of trees.
I told her everything; I left nothing out. I explained to her about the angel, and how he spoke to me and told me I had found favor with God. And how I would conceive and bear a son, and name him Jesus; and that he would be great and called the son of the Most High – and that he would reign over the house of Jacob forever!
I told Elizabeth that the angel mentioned her name, and how she was with child, even in her advanced age. She laughed when I told her that! And I told her I’d never forget what he said right before he left, “That nothing was impossible with God!”
And then I waited to see what her reaction would be, after all my own mother didn’t believe me. She didn’t say anything at first, she just kind of stared at me.
“Do you believe me, Elizabeth?” I asked.
“Of course I do, dear. Why wouldn’t I?
She told me that God was great and does great things … she should know.
“Look at me,” she said! I was as barren as Abraham’s wife–Zechariah and I were old. There was no hope left. Nothing. She told me how she spent many sleepless nights praying to God for a child,
how she wept and cried and pleaded with God.
“Yes, my child,” she said, “God has his own time and moment.” Elizabeth told me that one morning Zachariah got up to go to the temple as usual with the other priests to burn incense. He remained inside for a long time, praying in the temple. And when he returned he couldn’t speak. It wasn’t long after he came home from serving that she conceived. She knew that this was the work of the Lord.
Remember how I told you that she laughed when the angel mentioned her name? She said she knew all this was the Lord’s doing, but it was nice to have it confirmed by God’s messenger.
I thanked her for sharing her beautiful story with me – and do you know what she told me? She said, “your story will be even more beautiful, Mary, you’ll see.”
The time came, and Elizabeth gave birth to a son. And when the family asked what she would name him, she said, “John.” No one believed her, because there was no one by that name in our family, but she insisted. And when Zechariah was consulted and was given a writing tablet, he too wrote down the name, John.
Well, as soon as the words were written down, Zechariah’s eyes filled with tears; he spoke, and he began to praise God. He praised God for granting him a son of his own, a child who would prepare the way for the Lord.
I’ll never forget that party: everyone toasted to baby John’s good health. They congratulated Elizabeth and John, and we danced and sang and praised God until dawn.
I saw, firsthand, how God blessed Elizabeth just like the angel said. How God took care of everything, and how nothing was or is impossible with God.
Yes, God was good to Elizabeth, and so God was with me. God has been very good to me, and I’ll never stop thanking him! We might not understand the Lord’s ways – his thoughts are not our thoughts – and yet, God brings down the powerful from their throne, while he lifts the humble from their misery. The rich, he sends away empty; and he feeds the hungry. God gave a child to Elizabeth; and with me, he made the greatest miracle – because he made me see nothing is impossible with God by my side.
Cindy Parker came to the United Church of Christ by way of the Presbyterian Church. A life-long Presbyterian, she jokes that she was “predestined to become UCC!” Currently called as the Pastor and Teacher of Christ Church UCC in Latrobe, PA and St. John’s UCC in Darlington; she, her husband Larry and three daughters enjoy traveling all over the world! Cindy also serves as a Spiritual Director for the Three Rivers Walk to Emmaus retreats and was part of the team that brought the Kairos Outside Ministry to Pennsylvania. Kairos (which means special time in Greek) is a prison ministry for women whose lives have been impacted by incarceration. Cindy completed her undergraduate studies at Penn State and her MDiv. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary along with a year-long internship at Family Hospice and Palliative Care. She enjoys traveling, reading, baking, and photographing her daughters.
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