Monday, May 24, 2010

To Prepare the Way: Elisabeth's Birth Story

Elisabeth, the wife of Zacharias, became the mother of John the Baptist who was born only six months before his cousin, Jesus. Before he was even born it was prophesied by his father that John would "go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways." (Luke 1: 76) John's ministry among the children of Israel was to help prepare them to hear the words of Christ whom he said was " mightier than I... the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose." (Mark 1:7) In the same way that John prepared the way for Christ to accomplish his divine mission his mother, Elisabeth, helped prepare the way for Mary to accomplish her divine mission.

In Luke 1 we read that Elisabeth and Zacharias were righteous and "blameless" before God and yet they had never been granted children. They were both "stricken in years" when Zacharias, performing his Levitical duties in the temple, was visited by an angel who told him that Elisabeth would bear a son and that his name would be John. Zacharias doubted and so the angel struck him dumb. Yet just as the angel, Gabriel, promised Elisabeth became pregnant in her old age. She hid her pregnancy from everyone until she was five months along saying, "Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men." (Luke 1:25)

When she was in her six month of pregnancy Mary, her young cousin, was visited by the same angel that had spoken with Zacharias and told that she would bear the son of God. When Mary doubted asking, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" the angel explained that the Holy Ghost would over shadow her and gave the fact that Elisabeth was six months pregnant as proof that "with God nothing shall be impossible." (Luke 1:37) Not long after this visit with the angel Mary leaves her home in Nazareth and travels to Judah, which was about 67 miles away, to visit Elisabeth. One can only imagine that she was anxious to know if what the angel had told her was true and to gain the strength to handle the heavy burden that had been placed upon her young shoulders.

When she got to Elisabeth's house Mary was greeted with two additional witnesses that what the angel told her was true. First, Mary could plainly see that Elisabeth, despite her old age, was more than six months pregnant. Second, the babe within Elisabeth lept within her when he heard Mary's voice and Elisabeth was filled with the holy ghost. She knew, before Mary even told her, that she was carrying the savior and the redeemer of the world within her womb. Elisabeth blessed Mary and told her "...for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord." (Luke 1:45)

The story of Elisabeth and Mary is very powerful because it demonstrates first that when God gives us a commandment or inspiration he always give us multiple witnesses to proclaim the truthfulness of his word. One can only imagine that Mary must have felt quite afraid and alone as she faced her future life. She was betrothed and pregnant and didn't know how her future husband would react but she knew she faced the possibility of being stoned to death. She also didn't know how her family would react or how she would be able to explain to them her situation. She must have felt quite afraid and very alone. What a blessing then for her to have Elisabeth who through the power of the Holy Ghost was able to discern what had happened to her and who was able to give her the emotional, spiritual, and physical strength she needed to go forward on the hard path she had accepted from the Lord.

I think God usually sends someone into our lives who helps pave the way for us to accomplish our divine missions on this earth. He sends people to us who will guide us onto the right path, who will validate our feelings and bear testimony to the promptings, dreams, visions and revelations that we have received from the Lord. I know that for me my beautiful sister-in-law was my "Elisabeth" and it was her faith, strength and encouragement that guided me and sustained me on my path towards becoming a mother.

After a long struggle with infertility my beautiful sister-in-law gave birth to her first child just six months before I gave birth to mine. I was terrified of motherhood and doubted my ability to handle pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and all the other responsibilities that came with a baby. Yet as I watched her blossom in her pregnancy, saw her make faith filled and conscious decisions about labor, breastfeeding, and motherhood and then watched her bloom as she gave birth to her daughter naturally without drugs or interventions... I was in awe. My soul took strength from her example and I began to look forward to the experience of child birth and breastfeeding with joy. Even though she didn't have a home birth she was the one who directed me towards my midwife and who joyfully supported me me when I told her that I felt strongly that the Lord wanted me to have my baby at home. She was the one I turned to when my fears overpowered my faith and when I began to doubt myself and the Lord. She, like Elisabeth did for Mary, bore testimony to what I knew the Lord had told me and gave me the courage to go forth in faith. She paved the way for me and helped me take my first fledgling steps into motherhood. Without her help and encouragement I don't know if I would have had the courage to make the choices I did. Yet the choices I made about my son's birth have made all the difference in my life and have changed my soul and the direction of my life more than any other experience I've had. God knew that I needed those lessons and he sent a beautiful woman into my life to guide me towards them... I will be forever grateful for her.

Me (second from the left) pregnant with my first baby with my sister-in-laws

I know that there are people in every person's life who are sent to "...go before the face of the Lord to prepare his way" and help give us the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical strength we need to accomplish what the Lord has sent us here to do. For me this person was my sister-in-law, for Christ it was John the Baptist, and for Mary it was Elisabeth... who was it for you?

What We Can Learn From Her Story:
  • Women can receive divine inspiration about who their children are and what their missions are in this life even before they are born;
  • Women are entitled to the gift of prophecy and to be filled with the spirit of the Holy Ghost;
  • If the Lord wills it, even women who are physically unable to bear children will;
  • God knows when every child needs to be born on this earth and to which parents. Sometimes that means that women have to wait a long time for the children they were foreordained to be the mothers of;
  • God always gives us multiple witnesses to attest to the truth and divinity of what he tells us;
  • God sends people before us that prepare the way for us to accomplish our divine missions.
Questions To Think About:
  • Why do you think Elisabeth hid her pregnancy from others for five months?
  • Why did Mary go back home to Nazareth after three months, just about the time her pregnancy would start showing? Why didn't she stay with Elisabeth till after John was born? Or even until after her baby was born?
  • What does it mean to you to "be filled with the Holy Ghost"? Have you ever had that experience before?
  • Who have been the "Elisabeths" in your life? Who have been the "Marys"?
  • It is interesting to note how different Elisabeth's and Mary's pregnancies and births were. Elisabeth's pregnancy was heralded as a miracle and the events surrounding John's birth were "noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judea." In contrast, Mary's pregnancy was probably met with tears, anger and shame from her family, Joseph's family and all their kinsfolk and acquaintances. No one, except Mary, Joseph, Elisabeth and God knew the true miracle of her conception and when Christ was born he came in a humble stable with no one, expect the shepherds to bear witness of his birth. Why do you think that these two birth experiences were so different?


  1. Hi! My name is Shauna and a friend of mine sent your blog address to me. i've really enjoyed reading it. I didn't realize until this post that we've met: We were in a modern class at BYU together. Our teacher's last name was Monson, maybe? a dark-haired female. i really enjoyed her class. Anyway, it was a fun realization. Thanks for all you share.

  2. I wanted to ask if it's okay that I re-posted one of your posts on my blog:

    If this is not okay I will delete it.It was so moving that I felt I had to share it. I left your name on it.Please let me know. I apologize I didn't ask you first.

    I Love Your Blog. You have some great insights.

  3. I'm in a musical entitled, "Mary" and I play the role of Elisabeth. I love your entry and it has really helped me grasp her character better. Elisabeth was such a strong and faithful woman.
    Thank you for your thoughts