by Marilyn Ehle
“The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you”…Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea… Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.” Luke 1
In the Western world of refined medical practice, the first three months of a woman’s pregnancy are considered some of the most important. She is encouraged to care for her body through good nutrition, appropriate exercise and frequent visits to her doctor.
In our rush toward Christmas and the miracle of Bethlehem, we often ignore the humanness of Mary. True, she was singled out and blessed by a visit from Gabriel who pronounced her highly favored and the recipient of God’s intimate presence. But we note the angel did not say she would be immune to the very normal routine of pregnancy—morning sickness, back pain, sleeplessness.
Can we imagine how older Elizabeth and young Mary spent those three months? Did Elizabeth stroke Mary’s long hair as she bent over with sickness? Did Elizabeth prepare special food to stoke her appetite? Mary would have been experiencing disgrace from her family back in Nazareth. Did Elizabeth wipe her tears while assuring her of God’s grace and unending love?
Angel visits are miraculous but infrequent. During Mary’s first trimester God used the very ordinary words and actions of a willing friend to further prepare her for what lay ahead.
Each of us has a “trimester” in our relationship with God, often more than one. During these times of preparation and waiting, our needs are similar to Mary’s. Even though some may have had miraculous spiritual experiences—perhaps akin to Gabriel’s presence—we must all walk forward within the limitations of our cultures, our families, our specific circumstances. We will need “Elizabeth’s” to nurture and teach. We will need the time to learn the pondering process that Mary would practice for the rest of her journey. Three months is just the beginning.
Thank you for the story of Mary that helps me see how You work in all the seasons of my life. Waiting is hard for me, Lord. Help me look forward with faithfulness to the Bethlehem’s that lie in my future.
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