In Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God showed her favour and lifted her shame – whilst her baby, John, would prepare the way for Jesus, who would take away all our shame.
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
The childless Elizabeth, now pregnant. What a beautiful miracle, and prelude of things to come. But why did Elizabeth remain in seclusion for five months? The short answer is we aren’t sure. Perhaps, in light of her social “disgrace”, she was waiting until her pregnancy was visible. Perhaps she was savouring a precious time of personal praise and worship before God for his kindness to her. We don’t really know.
But what we do know is that Elizabeth knows that it is God who has done this. Her pregnancy is no accident. This is no improbable stroke of luck. God is powerfully on the move, and this is his doing. We also know that Elizabeth praises God particularly because he has taken away her disgrace; her shame. Her words here echo back down the line of Abraham to Rachel – Jacob’s wife, who was also remembered by God in her childlessness, and was given a child, lifting her disgrace. (Genesis 30:22-23)
In ancient Israel, childlessness was often considered a shameful thing. I’m grateful that it no longer carries the weight of this sort of public shame… there’s more than enough personal grief and disappointment (and sometimes even feelings of shame) associated with childlessness for those who would love a child, and their families. Yet, grief and shame are unavoidable fixtures of a broken world; a world where things, and we ourselves, aren’t as they should be.
Elizabeth’s baby, John, prepares the way for another baby boy, Jesus – born to her relative, Mary. A child who would remove not only the disgrace of one woman in ancient Israel, but the disgrace of us all. All our shame. Shame from our sin, shame from our brokenness, shame from things that have happened to us.
God’s favour towards Elizabeth, in her five-month seclusion, is the quiet prelude building into the glorious symphony of God’s gift of his Son to the whole world, this baby who would go on to die in the place of his people – dying in our place, to remove our disgrace and shame, to wash us clean and welcome us home.
So, today, you can join your voice with Elizabeth’s, and say: “The Lord has done this for me. He has taken away my disgrace.”
Head: What has God done for you, in Christ? What reasons do you have to thank him today?
Heart: Is there shame, grief, or guilt hidden in your heart? Could you bring it into the light of the cross of Christ today – to know, in your heart, his forgiveness and lifting of shame?
Hands: Is there anyone you could share this with, and pray together? Do you think there’s anyone who might need you to listen to and pray with them?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you that, in Jesus, you have lifted my shame and disgrace – both for my sin, and for what has happened to me in this broken world. Help me rest in that, and to reach out to others in their shame and grief with words of life. Amen.
A song to listen to: Shine Into Our Night