Insert text here.
Elizabeth and her husband were childless and just too old. He couldn't speak since his conversation with Gabriel, but he had something very important to tell her.
Zacharias departed to his own house. After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, "Thus the Lord has dealt with me, when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people."
Mary arose and went with haste to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."
Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, then returned to her own house. Now Elizabeth's full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.
On the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. His mother answered and said, "No, he shall be called John."
They said to her, "No one among your relatives is called by this name." So they made signs to his father. Zacharias asked for a tablet and wrote, "His name is John." Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.
These sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. Those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, "What kind of child will this be?" And the hand of the Lord was with him.
Luke 1:23-25, 40-45, 56-66 NKJV, condensed
Elizabeth Had Something to Shout About
Elizabeth was normally a quiet person. She found comfort in being alone. Not much is said when you spend a lot of time alone. But now, when Elizabeth did speak, she shouted! Not because she was old and hard of hearing. She wasn't angry at anybody or rude or in pain. Elizabeth was loud because the Holy Spirit was within her, revealing the most exciting things. It gave her such delight that she shouted when she spoke!
Elizabeth was the wife of the priest, Zacharias. It's not nice to describe a woman as old, so let's just say Elizabeth was too old to be having babies. Which brings us to the subject which defined her existence--Elizabeth was barren. She never knew the joy of holding her own baby on her lap and having children cling to her skirts. She would not have the comfort of sons and daughters to assist her as she aged. No one to pass on family treasures or carry her name into the future. Elizabeth responded to life by drawing inward. Maybe she knew the words of Isaiah about finding strength in quietness. That would be interesting because when Zacharias returned home from his "tour of duty" in Jerusalem, he was unable to speak. So words were few in that household. But few words did not mean dull or routine. Rather, Zacharias was all charged up. What he lacked in words, he made up for in physical expression.
Elizabeth saw no angel, just a silent, excited husband. When she became pregnant, Elizabeth remained in seclusion for five months. No celebrating; no parties. Elizabeth rejoiced alone! Her words were full of gratitude. God had looked kindly on her and taken away her disgrace.
I like Elizabeth's image of God's favor. God looking at her. God's shining face. God's smiling face, conveying compassion, mercy and kindness. There's an old benediction, "God make his face shine upon you and give you peace." It comes from the writings of Moses who knew God's favor, too. Zacharias couldn't speak; Elizabeth was in seclusion. One was dumb; the other hiding. But the next time we hear about Elizabeth she was full of the Holy Spirit. Not dead, dying or depressed, Elizabeth was fully alive. Angels evoke fear. The Holy Spirit produces boldness, courage and joy which knows no bounds.
It was young Mary who drew Elizabeth out of her seclusion. Their need for each other was mutual. At Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in Elizabeth's womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and the words poured out of her loudly.
"Mary, you favor me. You honor me (remember this is age speaking to youth). Blessed are you among, and above, all women. You are the mother of my Lord! Blessed are you for believing what God said; it will be accomplished." Blessings bring happiness to both the giver and the receiver.
Strengthened by the visit of Mary with all her youthful and infectious joy, Elizabeth was now ready. No longer did she feel like she was talking to the back of God's head. At last his face was toward her. Her womb was full, her spirit overflowing.
Elizabeth delivered her baby. In the power of the Lord she brought forth a son. No longer alone, neighbors and relatives shared her joy and began to take charge. On the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child. Intending to do the traditional thing, they plan to call him Zacharias.
But Elizabeth said, "No, his name is John." Loud, bold, and with confidence, Elizabeth named the child. All aspects of this birth were unconventional, so it fits the story for the name to cause surprise, too. Everything culminated in a sense of awe and wonderment. What will this child become? Surely God's hand was upon him.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: When do you prefer to withdraw from circulation and be alone?
Elizabeth went into seclusion while pregnant instead of mingling with friends and relatives. Why might she have reacted that way? Should she have isolated herself? Why or why not? If you ever had a baby, how did the pregnancy affect your social life?
Did you ever receive something good after a long wait? If so, what was it? Are good things worth the wait? What does it mean to receive in God's good time?
Elizabeth pictured God's favor as seeing God's face and not God's back. Is it difficult or easy for you to visualize God smiling at you? When have you felt like you were talking to the back of God's head? Does God ever turn his back on you?Sometimes God smiles at us through other people. Who are the people who strengthen you?
Describe any mental images which help you interact with God?
God talked to Zacharias and Mary through an angel. With Elizabeth, God spoke through the Holy Spirit. God used dreams to guide Joseph. How does God communicate with you? Faith is evident in every generation, culture and time period. Give some present-day examples of this.
Contrast Elizabeth's experience with that of her husband in the previous passage. In what ways were their situations, emotions and reactions different?The angel visit to Zacharias vs. the Holy Spirit within Elizabeth. Is one more valid or believable than the other? If given a choice, which would you prefer? Why?
The Scripture says Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. This was most evident when she spoke. For many people, the Holy Spirit is a mystery and hard to explain. So think of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Jesus living within you. What is it like to live having the Spirit of Jesus within you? When is his Spirit most evident to you? What are some signs of the Holy Spirit's presence?