After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “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.” (Luke 1:24-25)
Our lives are full. Oh, maybe not full in the qualitative sense, as in all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19), but full of other, not so quality things. We are full of doubt, full of fear, full of insecurity. We are full of activities, full of responsibilities, full of stuff to do. We are full of disappointment, full of groaning, full of pain. We are full of voices. full of distractions, full of expectations. We are simply full. And, if the truth be known, what we are most full of is ourselves. No wonder that there are so few times that we actually feel full of God. How could we? We are so full of other things there is simply no room. There must be an emptying to take place, in order for any new kind of filling to be a possibility.
Elizabeth was full of disgrace. She had lived for so many years being called "barren." What an awful name to be called. Look at some of the definitions of the word: not producing or incapable of producing offspring; sterile: unproductive; unfruitful: without capacity to interest or attract. The Greek word used here is steira, which means hard, stiff, or unnatural. If you are a woman, I'm guessing, it is not the type of word you would want to be known by. It is probably not a name you want to be called. It is a name that points out your inabilities as a woman. And so Elizabeth, because she was barren was filled with disgrace. But God was about to change all of that. He was about to take away, or empty, her of all that disgrace; and fill her instead with favor. What a great word. God was going to fill Elizabeth, not only with the child she most deeply longed for, but with something much, much more...His favor.
God has birthed something new deep in the body, as well as the heart and soul, of Elizabeth, and she is totally overwhelmed. She must ponder all of this, she must reflect on the magnitude of what has happened and begin to nurture this new birth that is just now taking shape within her; both physically and spiritually. So instead of running around showing everyone that God has taken away her disgrace, she goes into seclusion for five months. She immediately goes into silence, where she knows this new birth can best be cared for and nurtured and grown, before it is to be seen by the world. I wonder what those five months were like for her? And I wonder if she was a totally different person when the time in silence, with just her and her God, was complete? She had received a gift from God and had to make it her own before it would be of any value to this lost world.
I'm really drawn to Elizabeth during this season. I'm drawn to her emptying, and her filling, and the silence she goes into to nurture the new life of God within her (as her cousin Mary would in the days and months ahead, in a much more literal way). Elizabeth is such a great guide for me during Advent. What emptying needs to take place in me? What life does God long to plant within me? How will I pay attention, and care for, and nurture this life within, so I can allow it the space and the time and the care to become all that God desires it to be?