Before the arrival, or even the promise of Jesus’ imminent birth, Jesus’ Aunt, Elizabeth, was promised a son. We see from the text of Luke 1 that Elizabeth was a righteous women, of priestly descent. We also see that she was an older mother. She had been considered barren. During Elizabeth’s pregnancy, we are told that Elizabeth rejoiced that she had conceived, and went into seclusion for 5 months. At the same time, John’s father, Zechariah had been struck silent by the Lord, for his response to the Lord’s promise that he would have a son.
Meanwhile, Mary had a vision. The Angel Gabriel paid her a visit when Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant. Mary was a virgin, and engaged to be married. This means that Mary was likely in her early teens. Historically, at the time, women were married usually between the ages of 12-15 years old. Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she will become pregnant soon, and that this pregnancy will be a blessing. (As an unwed young woman, pregnancy could have been tragic!) But Gabriel told Mary that her child would be the King. According to Luke, Mary was confused, and communicated this to the Angel, who further explained that despite her virgin status, she would become pregnant, and in a way that ensured the purity of the child she would bear. Oh, and by the way, Mary, your relative Elizabeth is expecting!
Mary’s response: acceptance. And then a few days later, she traveled to visit Elizabeth. Elizabeth recognized Mary, and with the Holy Spirit’s and her unborn child’s leading, Elizabeth identifies Mary’s status as pregnant with the blessed child. Remember, Elizabeth was in her 6th month of pregnancy at this time, and Luke 1:56 says that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about 3 months. Mary, a very young (albeit mature) mother stayed with an older mother through the end of her pregnancy and likely the birth of John. What tremendous benefit Elizabeth’s guidance, and leading was to Mary! I am unsure if it was tradition for a pregnant woman to go and stay with another pregnant or recently post-natal family member, but I cannot help but observe the benefit of Mary witnessing the late stages of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, birth, and first moments or days of John’s life. Mary likely learned from Elizabeth how to know when it was time to give birth, and how to nurture a newborn child. This seems especially poignant, as Mary seems to have given birth to Jesus in relative isolation.
As a middle-aged mother of young children (meaning I am neither a young mom nor an older mom), I am aware that had I become a mother at a younger age (let alone as a teenager!), I would have likely struggled much more with the necessary giving and unselfishness required to be a good enough mother. I find that older mothers tend towards greater generosity and patience with their children. I am blessed to have in my life, a number of grandmothers, aunties, mothers, sister-in-law, and friends who have walked this road before me, and can guide me on the way. I am so thankful for these relationships.
I left a church several years ago that was, for the most part single-generational. This small community was filled with people who genuinely loved the Lord, and sought to bless those around them. They were and are doing good work! But in leaving, my family felt called into a larger church community that is decidedly multi-generational. I cannot express the joyful blessings I have experienced in mingling, learning from and doing community with others from varied backgrounds and generations.
May we all have diverse Mothers, Aunties, Sisters, Grannies, and friends from whom to learn how to live life fully, and in a way that honors out Lord, and His story.