During Advent several years ago, I was great with child. Waiting on the Christ child was so intertwined with waiting on the birth of our baby that my 20-month-old son confused our baby girl with the baby Jesus when first introduced.
As I waited not-so-patiently for my daughter to arrive, I reflected on her name: Eliza Marie. Both names are part of our family history and include my own name as well as the names of my mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. My daughter takes her place in a line of Elizabeths and Maries.
In this line of women sharing my daughter’s name are those often mentioned during Advent. Indeed, as I sat waiting for this child to emerge, I read and reread the story of Mary and Elizabeth, both expecting their bundles of joy.
Luke’s gospel begins with an angel announcing the news of Elizabeth’s upcoming pregnancy to her husband Zechariah. This child of theirs is not only an answer to their prayer and a sign of God’s favor on them, but the angel foretells that he will also bring the people of Israel back to God, and that he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.
To Zechariah, this vision and announcement seem too good to be true, so he’d like some assurance from the angel that this will come to pass. Because of Zechariah’s doubt, the angel closes his mouth until the child is born.
We do not know how Elizabeth learns the news, but we do know that she attributes her pregnancy to the Lord’s work — she believes God is looking upon her with favor.
Luke then moves to another birth announcement — this one concerning the baby Jesus. When the angel Gabriel presents the news to Mary that she will bear a child even though she isn’t yet married, she too is troubled at first. But by the end of the account, her countenance and response has changed to one of trust: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Perhaps my favorite part of this chapter comes next. These two pregnant women come together, reveling in the way God is moving in their lives and rejoicing in what he will do in the lives of their soon-to-be-born sons. Elizabeth praises Mary: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” And Mary responds with her own praise to God in the words of the Magnificat.
Luke’s opening chapter features two amazing women. These two women chose to trust God with their lives, even when they were unexpectedly expecting babies. They encouraged one another and recognized God’s favor and faithfulness to them.
When my sister-in-law asked what verse I’d like on some artwork for Eliza’s nursery, I thought of these two women. And now this word of praise from Elizabeth hangs above her bed: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Though this verse is aimed at Mary and her belief that God would fulfill his specific promises in her life and in the life of her son Jesus, we are all blessed when we believe that the Lord will fulfill his promises to us. God is faithful to keep the promises he has made to all of his children.
I love that this verse was originally directed at a woman — I don’t need to change the pronouns to make it applicable to my daughter. May this daughter of mine, Eliza Marie, grow to resemble Elizabeth and Mary as she trusts in God’s faithfulness to keep his promises. As we grow in our trust in God’s promises, may we also grow to resemble these faithful women of Scripture.
With degrees in political science, French, theological studies, and New Testament, Anna is a learner at heart. She’s ministered in both local churches and on university campuses, most recently with InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministries in North Carolina. A member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Anna loves speaking and writing, and her work has been published in Not Alone and Let Us Keep The Feast. She is married to Jeff, a Presbyterian pastor, and together they are raising two young children. As editor of The Well, she hopes to encourage, support, and challenge women in graduate school and beyond. Find her on twitter at @amgissing.
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