Elizabeth, mentioned only in Luke’s Gospel, was married to a priest named Zechariah. “Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:6).
Yet in a culture where children were viewed as a primary evidence of God’s blessing, they were also childless. Elizabeth was unable to conceive. This barrenness was a source of deep disgrace to her (Luke 1:25). Only those who’ve suffered through fertility issues can fully appreciate the sting of all those unanswered prayers, the piercing pain of an empty nursery. Since Elizabeth and Zechariah “were well along in year” (Luke 1:7), it’s not unreasonable to assume that they had given up the hope of ever becoming parents.
Then one day while Zechariah’s priestly group (“Abijah’s division, “Luke 1:5) was on duty at the temple, he was chosen by lot for the special honor of burning incense in the holy sanctuary. As Zechariah performed this priestly duty, an angel of the Lord appeared to him. The angel informed him that God’s answer to their many prayers for a child hadn’t actually been no; it had been “not yet.” But now, at last, it was time.
Elizabeth would have a son, the angel said. They were to name him John, and he would be a great man of God who would “turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God” (Luke 1:16). He would, in fact, be the forerunner of the Messiah.
This was good news-great news, even. But to Zechariah, it was also a little far-fetched, given his and Elizabeth’s advanced ages. They were more suited for a visit to the geriatric ward than the maternity ward. When Zechariah told the angel as much, he was (literally) stuck speechless.
Nevertheless, the Lord kept his promise and opened Elizabeth’s womb. When she discovered she expecting, she did the first-century equivalent of taking a break from social media, social everything. She stayed home, watching her belly grow and marveling at God’s grace.
Six months after appearing to Zechariah, the angel appeared to Mary to give out more exciting baby news: “Mary . . . You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31).
When the angel explained that Mary’s child would be “the Son of God” (Luke 1:35), Mary was dumbstruck, and perhaps tempted to doubt. So the angel added, “Consider your relative Elizabeth-even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:36-37).
Mary packed her bags and hurried off to visit her relative. Whether this means Elizabeth was Mary’s aunt or cousin or in-law, we’re not sure. We just know that Elizabeth was beginning her third trimester when the freshly pregnant Mary arrived. The reunion scene that took place is both miraculous and heartwarming.
Two “impossibly pregnant” women (one elderly and one a virgin) and their two unborn sons (related by blood, connected by calling, and destined to make an eternal difference in the world) combined to make for one great worship service!
Elizabeth, finding herself filled with the Holy Spirit erupted in gladness when she saw “the mother of [her] Lord” (Luke 1:43). She then reported that she had felt her baby leap for joy in utero when Mary called her name. Mary responded to this report by spontaneously bursting into song herself (Luke 1:44-55).
Mary ended up staying with Elizabeth for almost three months. One can only imagine the many late-night conversations these two first-time expectant moms enjoyed over those weeks.
When Mary departed, it was time. Elizabeth delivered her son. As commanded, they named him John. And Zechariah’s speech was restored. Filled with the Spirit, the proud new papa prophesied over this miracle child who would pave the way for his even more miraculous relative.
Elizabeth’s late-life pregnancy is proof of the angel’s statement that “nothing [is] impossible with God’s (Luke 1:37).