Main Scriptures: Luke 1 and Matthew 1
When I first moved to Nashville 16 years ago, there seemed to be a massive influx of people coming from all over the world. What was really cool about that was if you asked someone why they moved to Nashville, even if the immediate answer was “for music” (and it was 99% of the time), there was a main reason that was often said in almost as low as a whisper:
“Okay this may sound crazy but God told me to move here.”
What a relief it was to hear so many people say the same thing! While music and entertainment might have been the means, as always there was an underlying purpose. There was a solidarity that formed because so many of us were on the same crazy adventure. There’s something comforting about meeting other people that are going out on a limb like you are to bring something different to the world. Life can seem pretty isolating when you haven’t found those people yet.
When Mary the mother of Jesus found out that she was going to be an unwed virgin mother to the Savior of the world, I’d imagine there was no community for that; There was no church small group, no online chatroom, no community support meetups. Quite the opposite actually. Being a young, unwed mother was a disgrace at that time. And if asked how it happened, who in the world was going to believe this story:
Luke 1: 27- 35
27 The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
Can you imagine having to think about how you were going to explain that to people? What’s so great about this story is that God knew that this was not something that Mary should have to go through by herself. His timing is so great. God loves community and created us to be in relationship with one another. He already had someone who was in a similar circumstance for her to visit so that she didn’t have to try and wrap her mind around this new reality alone.
36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38“I am the Lordʼs servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Mary’s relative Elizabeth also had a miracle in the oven and her kid was to be no slacker either. The same angel visited Elizabeth’s husband and told him that although they were both old and Elizabeth was barren, they would conceive a child that would “be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born… bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God… go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:14-17). Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant with John the Baptist.
Two very different women on parallel journeys to miraculously birth something that would not only change the world but the course of history altogether. This was huge! Here’s why Mary and Elizabeth are #SquadGoals and what we can learn from them while being in the industry:
- There was no competition between them whatsoever
Elizabeth was at least 80 years old and considered barren when she finally became pregnant. There was a certain kind of shame towards women who were unable to conceive at that time. So for her to finally be pregnant and carrying the one to make way for Jesus was extraordinary. Take a second to think about how it would feel to have this great news only to be contacted by your virgin 13-year-old cousin with what could seem to others to be even greater news. Much younger and pregnant without even trying to be? And with the Savior of the world? Sure Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist but Mary was about to be the mother of Jesus the Christ. Look at how Elizabeth greeted Mary once she saw her:
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Sometimes your purpose is to make way for something greater. Sometimes you can be doing something great in your career and you are meant to walk alongside someone whose destiny may be considered to be more significant. It doesn’t mean that you or what you are birthing isn’t great. Everyone plays their part in God’s plan. Would you be mature enough to encourage what God wants to “birth” in the earth if He has not chosen you to be the one to birth it?
Elizabeth was so excited for her. When her son John the Baptist finally met Jesus, he greeted him in a similar way. Check out the devo “Do You Know When to Call a Time Out” about the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus.
- They were a safe place for each other
Mary was able to go and stay with Elizabeth during her first trimester while Elizabeth was in her last trimester. I have no doubt that Elizabeth was able to share with Mary what to expect during her pregnancy as Mary was able to help her during the final months of hers. It helps to know someone who is a little further along on their journey so they can give you some insight on what to do and what to watch out for. Also, if you know someone on a similar path as you are, be encouraging. Remember how important it was for someone to help you and tell them what you wish someone would’ve told you.
- They had the right partners for their purpose
This is huge. I actually wrote about this in a post titled “No Fun Alone” that talks about the importance of choosing the right partner. Unlike Mary, Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah was told before Elizabeth that they would have a child.
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lordʼs commands and decrees blamelessly. 7But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariahʼs division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Zechariah had a moment of weakness here. His faith slipped and because of this, God silenced him temporarily. The difference between what he asked and what Mary asked was a matter of intent: Mary just wanted to know how. Zechariah wanted to know why he should believe an angel. He was basically asking “How do I know you are telling the truth”? As I mentioned in the last devotional, God does not like to be called a liar. Zechariah was mute until the birth of John the Baptist but the blessing he was able to speak at the birth of his son was something beautiful and worth the wait. You can read it here.
As for Mary, she was engaged to Joseph who also received a visit from Gabriel the angel (he was busy, wasn’t he?)
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
One thing I love about both Joseph and Mary is that as soon as they received the word of the Lord, they bounced immediately and did what they were told to do. Mary’s response of “I am the Lordʼs servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” should be all of our response to God’s plan no matter how extraordinary it may seem.
Mary and Elizabeth were two very different women with incredible purpose who carried similar and very extraordinary destinies. As Elizabeth prepared the way for Mary, her son John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus. Their unwavering faithfulness and dedication to God, their families and one another are definitely worth modeling as we help each another move toward what God has purposed for each of us. In an industry where everyone is told to look out for themselves, let’s be the right kind of crazy. Crazy enough to believe what God has for us is for us; crazy enough to not be envious of the path and success of others. Let’s be the type of people that recognize the greatness in each other to the point that, like Elizabeth, something inside of us leaps with joy when we come across others who are on a similar path of purpose as we are. We all win that way. Our industry as well as our world will be made better when we do.