Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ladies in Waiting

In Luke's rendering of the Christmas story we are introduced to three ladies in waiting -- Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Anna the prophetess.

Upright and blameless.  That describes Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah the priest. For many years she had longed for a child of her own, but they were now old, and she was barren.

Her husband had been chosen to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.  This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a priest put Zechariah in the very presence of God.  While serving, and angel appeared to him and said, Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you are to give him the name John (Luke 1:13).

Zechariah questioned the words of the angel.  How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.  Because of his doubt, he was struck dumb and would not speak until the birth of his son.  But after long years of waiting, Elizabeth accepted the news with joy.  The Lord has done this for me... In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people (1:25).

Elizabeth's cousin, Mary, was young, maybe only 13 or 14.  She was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter.  When an angel appeared to her, telling her that she would bear a son, the Son of the Most High, she humbly accepted his words.  She said, I am the Lord's servant.  May it be to me as you have said (1:38).

Mary's waiting had just begun.  As the story unfolded and the child was born and shepherds and wise men and an angry king all became a part of her life, Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart (2:19).   Until her final breath, she would wait to see what God would do through the life, death and resurrection of her son.

And then there's Anna.  She was not just old, she was very old.  Widowed after just seven years of marriage, she has lived in the temple ever since, and now she was 84.  She never left the temple, but spent her time worshipping God, fasting and praying.  When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus at the temple, Anna was there.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (2:38).  Her waiting was over.

We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
Psalm 33:21

(I was unable to find attributions for the art work.)

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