They had thought that they would wait before having kids — get a bigger house and more money in the bank first. Those were their hopes and plan. The pregnancy had been a surprise, somewhat unwelcome at first. But that all changed with the first sonogram and the baby stared kicking. They had neither the house they wanted or the bank account balance they thought they needed. But they were filled with great joy in the unexpected and unplanned pregnancy. They delighted in preparing to love and care for their child.
But that is how God always seems to work. When you think about it, Elizabeth and Mary weren’t planning to be pregnant. Elizabeth had given up hope; she was way too old. Mary was dangerously unwed to be carrying a child in a culture that found it acceptable to stone women to death for such a great sin. Two women in the same family, from a distance of miles and generations, dared to do something so risky, so dangerous, so perilous as to be – well – inconceivable.
As we make our final plans for the celebration of Christmas, what can we learn from these two remarkable, saintly women? To what do they challenge us?
- Elizabeth and Mary were OPEN to God’s will in their lives. Other women thought less of Elizabeth because she had no children after many years of marriage. Mary was a young, unmarried teenager when God asked her to be the mother of the messiah. Both said YES to God.
- Elizabeth and Mary were FLEXIBLE. Having babies had to be farthest from either woman’s mind and plans. But when it came to be by the grace of God, they were flexible, literally “able to bend” and change their plans. How many of us find ourselves praying my will be done instead of thy will? When God has different ideas than our own, we often get angry or sulk.
- Elizabeth and Mary BELIEVED in God’s plan even if they didn’t understand it completely. Both women’s lives were on the line. Elizabeth’s pregnancy was risky not only for herself, but for her child as well. Some self-righteous men in Nazareth had the right, even duty, to kill Mary. But they believed the words God spoke to them would be fulfilled. How about us? Do we believe in God’s promises to us?
Elizabeth and Mary are models for us during this season of Advent and throughout the year. Be open, be flexible, believe in God’s plan.