Commentary by Walter Albritton

                                   December 14, 2008


Elizabeth’s Story Reminds Us That God is with Us Too


Luke 1:5-24, 39-45


Key Verse: Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” – Luke 1:41b-42


Four hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the voices of the prophets had become silent. No one came forth declaring “Thus says the Lord!” Later historians call these “the silent years.” God was no longer speaking.

Despite the silence, hope remained alive among the Israelites. For example, the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth remained faithful to God, confident that the Messiah would come. Yet this faithful couple never dreamed that they would play a key role in the Messiah’s appearance.  

Every Christmas I readily identify with Zechariah. If the angel Gabriel had suddenly appeared to me, I would have fainted. And I am sure I would have replied to the angel, “You have got to be kidding! My wife, as old as she is, will soon give birth to a boy? Yeah, sure!” And like Zechariah, my doubt would have rendered me speechless also.

Luke explains Elizabeth’s pregnancy as God doing the impossible. Elizabeth was too old to have a child – but she did! Gabriel had given this news to Mary at the time he told her that she would give birth to a son who would be called the Son of God.

Mary was a young girl in her teens. Elizabeth was an old woman. But they were both chosen by God to give birth to sons who would demonstrate God’s amazing love for the world. Elizabeth’s son John would prepare the way for the Messiah, inviting the world to “behold the Lamb of God.”

Mary wanted to share her joy with someone who would understand her incredible story. What a scene it was when Mary entered Elizabeth’s home. The baby John leaped within Elizabeth’s womb, obviously filled with joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting. Somehow the unborn John realized he was in the presence of the Messiah, the Lord for whom he would prepare the way.

Prominent in Luke’s account is the role of the Holy Spirit. Not only was Mary’s pregnancy the work of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth’s recognition of Mary as the mother of the Messiah was also the work of the Spirit. She comprehended the truth because, at the sound of Mary’s voice, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Here is a good lesson for us. God desires to meet with us in ordinary places. He is not shut up in churches and temples waiting there to bless us. While the Holy Spirit may come upon us in church, he is also able to fill us and bless us in our homes and our work places. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit in a humble Judean home in the hill country. We should be as ready to receive the Spirit in the ordinary places of our lives, and especially in our homes.

Once I prayed earnestly for a man in my community to come to the Lord. I prayed especially that he would come forward to the altar at the end of one of my marvelous sermons so the whole church could witness his conversion. God had a different plan.

One Thursday the man came by my home to share his great joy in having been born again. I asked where and when this had taken place. He said, “In the barn, right after milking the cows; the Holy Spirit came over me and I fell to my knees, confessed my sins, and accepted Jesus as my Savior.” I shared his joy but I learned something important that day. God does not sit around all week waiting for Sunday so he can meet us in church. He is ready to do business with us anywhere and any time we become willing to surrender!

On his deathbed, John Wesley reminded those attending him that the best news of all is this: ”God is with us.” And He is. His very Name, Immanuel, says it all: God is with us! We can expect to meet Him in the most ordinary of places. We can be ready to embrace the power and presence of his Holy Spirit. When we are lonely, depressed, sad, hurting, or bewildered, he is likely to come upon us when we least expect it. And when the Spirit fills us, like Elizabeth we will be overwhelmed with joy!

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