Each Christmas season, one of the primary things that stands out to me about the Jesus’ birth is the kindness of God. It is evidenced in every detail, from the concept of Jesus’ coming foretold, to His literal conception as a baby, to the conception of redemption in the hearts of men and women who encounter Him in the days following.
The one that struck me today was in Mary’s first few months of pregnancy. I try to put myself in her shoes, a very young girl, possibly even 13 or 14, encountering a mighty Angel who tells her that she has been invited to be the mother of the Messiah. I can imagine the implications compounding one-by-one, swinging back and forth from wonder to fear to awe to joy and back to fear again as she considers this news:
She will give birth to a baby in 9 short months. But she is betrothed. But her son will be called “Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” But she is a virgin. She will have to face the opinions of her family, neighbors, and Joseph. But her son will be the Messiah. But she will have to raise the Messiah. The list goes on.
But even as the angel is delivering this news he says, “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month” (Luke 1:36).
What kindness of the Lord to give her an anchor point of hope and comfort as she considers the path before her. As she ponders the impossibility of this announcement, and the prospect of rejection and possibly even death at the acceptance of this invitation, she is given the hope that another miracle has occurred, even to one whom she knows and can draw solace.
Mary immediately goes to Elizabeth who, merely at the sound of her Mary’s voice, prophesies loudly of the baby who has been conceived in her womb. For she herself has experienced her own miracle.
Again, what amazing kindness, that the Holy Spirit prompts this announcement to give Mary hope that her angelic encounter was no mere dream, and that the future awaiting her will not be only full of difficulty. Mary rejoices in a song of praise at the character of God, who has shown Himself, time and again, even in her own example, to lift up the poor and needy, to exalt the humble, and to give mercy from generation to generation, to remain faithful to his promises.
Finally, I am amazed to consider what Zacharias knew. This priest and husband of Elizabeth was said to be righteous, one who walked blameless before the Lord, chosen to be father of the prophesied Forerunner who would prepare the way of the Lord. First of all, what kindness of the Lord to place these two men — Jesus and John — in the same family. Second, as a priest, Zacharias would have been very familiar with the prophesies surrounding the Messiah, not least of all those related to his own son in Malachi 4 that were quoted to him by the Angel Gabriel. When John is born, Zacharias erupts in his own prophecy,
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,Luke 1:68-73
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the House of David His servant–
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old–
Salvation from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us;
To show mercy toward our fathers,
And to remember his holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to Abraham our father….”
I was struck by vs. 69 in his mention of the House of David. He is rejoicing at the birth of His son, but he is talking immediately about the Messiah with confidence of God’s redemption as though it has already taken place, and speaking of the Messiah’s coming from the House of David, as though he was already present.
Can you imagine being Zacharias, wondering in the first few months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy whether his own promise would be fulfilled, when his young relative Mary comes with her own news of pregnancy? Was he there when Elizabeth shouted her prophecy, and when did he hear of Mary’s engagement?
This is conjecture, but I am guessing she must have shared with them in her 3 months visit of her betrothal to Joseph. She must have known of his lineage. And it would make sense to me that Zacharias would have properly understood the importance of Joseph’s ancestry in light of the baby in her womb and the prophecy of his own son, hence his mention of it in his Benedictus.
Can you picture them? Here is Zacharias, comforted to hear of her incredible encounter with the Angel Gabriel, just as he had. As if his muteness and Elizabeth’s pregnancy aren’t wonders enough, here in Mary’s womb is the very reason for his hope, even the reason for the birth of his own son. Though because of his old age, he may not be able to see the entirety of this story play out, but he has glimpsed the promise fulfilled. The kindness of the Lord.
And here is Mary, young, excited, terrified, needing comfort, wondering if she will have to bare this child alone in obedience, or worse, if she will go home and be sentenced to death for adultery. Who will believe her?
But here she is with her righteous relatives, assuring her that the Messiah will come from the line of David, of whom her own fiancé is a descendant. In this moment, never mind God’s amazing orchestration of history to fulfill His promises. Look upon this young girl, wondering if she will be scorned and rejected, and receiving the hope that her own betrothed will not turn her away because it is prophesied that this baby will be attributed to his lineage.
This is the kindness of the Lord, to care for each detail in the midst of His greater purposes.