Spiritual Cheerleaders: Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth
Mary Visits Elizabeth – Luke 1:39-45
39In those days Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah, 40where she entered the home of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42In a loud voice she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For as soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord’s word to her will be fulfilled.”
Until I was about 30 years old, I kept the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary, and the Baby Jesus on a pedestal of perfection with those images of the perfect nativity scene. Who remembers the plastic, bulb-lit nativities of the 1960s and 1970s? I was mesmerized by them! And, my goodness, the Christmas carols of “O, Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Away in a Manger”. I’m taking intermittent singing breaks (“Away in a manger no crib for a bed. The little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head…)” as I type this. I am also visualizing Mary, Joseph, and Jesus with those golden halos as the shepherds and Magi Kings kneel in reverence. Wowzers!
A literary work, Two from Galilee (Marjorie Holmes, 1982), and what I think is the BEST nativity movie EVER , The Nativity Story (2006) changed my vision of the Holy Family forever.
Y’all imagine a 14 years-old girl who was told she was no longer a care-free child. She is betrothed to a man whom she had never had a sexual relationship with having to wait a year (Jewish tradition before and during the Roman reign of Augustus Caesar) to live with him without that conjugal fulfillment, and is a virgin who has never had sexual relations with any man, being told by an angel named Gabriel that she will have a baby that is a gift from God. What the heck, God? In a few months after Gabriel’s visit, she KNOWS she is pregnant. Gabriel had told Mary earlier in Luke Chapter one that Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was going to be a mother. Elizabeth had been the “talk of the hill country of Judah” as a barren woman. Can you imagine the gossip of those days, “What has Elizabeth done in her life that God has cursed her this way!”, “Poor thing! Look at Hannah, Elizabeth’s neighbor. She has 8 children. Hannah is so blessed. Who will take care of Elizabeth and Zechariah in their old age? Poor Elizabeth and Zechariah!”
When Mary knew she was carrying a child, she hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah to visit her elderly cousin who was passed her child-bearing years. The weeks and months had been emotionally and spiritually excruciating for Mary. “I’m pregnant! Joseph might divorce me quietly or he could encourage the town to help stone me! Dear Father in heaven, will Elizabeth have any answers for me or words of fortification?”
We are not told how far away ( Google is showing like 99 miles… over three walking/cart days!!) but I can only imagine Mary’s anxiousness. As I watched the spectacular The Nativity Story this Christmas season, I had already squalled when Joseph re-purchased Mary’s parents’ donkey (the same donkey that carries Mary to Bethlehem….tears and sniffs…LOL… that the government officials had taken to help pay for taxes), but when Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house and Mary’s voice made John jump in Elizabeth’s womb along with the scriptural words from Elizabeth’s mouth, my chest began to heave and I sobbed with tears…tears of joy.
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
It was so spiritually moving. God gave Mary the confirmation and affirmation that she needed all those weeks before. God had given Mary her cousin, Elizabeth, to be her “cheerleader”, her confidante, her “hand to hold” for spiritual guidance.
Can you name your spiritual cheerleaders? Sometimes it’s not even someone cheering for you. It’s someone who responds to your spirit. My two spiritual cheerleaders who are now in Paradise are Naomi Alexander Caylor (my Nanny) and my adopted grandmother, Remell Hall. When Nanny died August of 1985, Remell picked up the mantle (2 Kings 2:13 when Elisa picked up Elijah’s mantle / cloak/ coat ). I’ve always thought it ironically special that Remell died on November 6, 2003 (Ammon’s birthday!) then God blessed me with my soul-mate, Sean Brown, in January of 2004. God did not leave me desolate for long.
Now, December 2020; 54, God keeping me out of any physical teaching environment, homeschooling Carter and Ammon, watching the world reel from the Corona virus, I have several spiritual friends I go to. It’s sometimes just a text to say, “God is Great!” or “Praying for you.” . Sometimes I have something serious to share; Carter and Ammon pre-teen drama, doubts on why God doesn’t want me working right now, or a spiritual matter that is troubling me.
My buds who do not fail me are Debbie Baker, Patsy Holland, Kathleen Lanford, Tami McClain, Claire Randle, and Evangeline Starks. There is an “odd man out” literally, so I’m putting him by himself; 21 years-old singer/songwriter, Hunter Lott has become a spiritual cheerleader God placed in my path as well. However, he lives in south Mississippi, and we have only been spiritual friends via social media and snail mail. Those ladies I mentioned are the toughest, Christ-like women I know, and they are physically near me. When I see them face to face and hug them, I get a spiritual, electrical charge, and sometimes we’ve had conversations where the tears flow (mostly mine) because we share from the heart and soul. My sincerest thanks to you 7 people (holy smokes… God’s number!!!). You all have NO IDEA what you mean to me. And Patsy Holland, I’ll never forget your Christian (sister and brother in Jesus the Christ) words of encouragement to me, “God doesn’t make mistakes” during our first serious, spiritual talk together over 3 years ago.
Returning to Mary and Elizabeth. The holy scriptures do not allow us to enjoy another conversation between the two ladies. The Nativity Story shows Mary being in attendance for John’s birth, watching Zechariah speak, and watching and listening to Elizabeth and Zechariah speak words of the Old Testament to their newborn with biblical “bedtime stories”. At this point, Mary tells the jubilant, elderly couple with their “miracle baby”, John, that she is returning to Nazareth. Those weeks with Elizabeth and Zechariah gave Mary, now physically showing she was pregnant, the spiritual strength to return to her betrothed, Joseph, to face the next months; vicious gossip from the townspeople, tears and perhaps rage from her parents and Joseph, and perhaps even death if she is stoned for adultery. The Lord’s servant, Mary, was returning to fulfill what Gabriel had shared and Elizabeth was Mary’s human confidante / human- contact spiritual support to face the following months.
I truly hope and pray that you all have spiritual cheerleaders. They are priceless. As soon as the Spirit touched my spirit with Mary and Elizabeth’s meeting as I watched the actresses speak the scriptures from Luke 1, I knew I had to write. It’s also set up a second blog I hope to finish before December 23: Jesus’ Awesome, Earthly Father, Joseph.