Updated: Dec 9, 2019
As I read through this passage, I imagine a mundane, typical day. Young Mary is minding her own business, going about chores and daily tasks… perhaps daydreaming about her future. She’s thinking, planning and imagining the many years to come – peaceful, quiet years to spend in her little town of Nazareth.
And in a single moment, everything changes.
“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God,” says the angel Gabriel. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”
Wow. There’s a lot to unpack here. In a matter of seconds, Mary’s predictable small-town life is turned upside-down. At this very moment, she:
is visited by an angel
finds out that she, an unmarried virgin, will soon become pregnant, and
is told not only that her Messiah is to come, but that she will carry him in her womb!
Can you imagine your reaction to any, let alone all, of these events? What would you say? What would you do? I, personally, can see myself running out of the house screaming. Convincing myself none of it was real. Trying to figure out how on earth I’d tell my family, my friends… and my fiancé.
Wondering if they would believe me.
What a chaotic, terrifying moment this must have been for Mary. What could she possibly do after receiving news like this? Who could possibly understand?
Now to my favorite part.
“And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.”
Elizabeth! I nearly tear up reading this. I think of who I might want to confide in if I were to receive life-changing news, and several wise, trusted female loved ones come to mind: my mom. My sister. My best friend from college. My best friend at work.
The angel Gabriel points Mary in the direction of a loving, trustworthy woman who, despite the crazy circumstances, is going through a very similar experience. And it feels like Gabriel can’t get it out fast enough: He tells Mary she will conceive the Son of God, and in the next breath, he shares the good news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. So, naturally, Mary pays her cousin a visit.
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” says Elizabeth upon seeing Mary.
I can just taste the relief and excitement Mary and Elizabeth feel when they meet. Mary is in the arms of a sympathetic companion – someone who understands what she is going through, and who knows the truth: that she will give birth to the Lord, our savior. Mary must have felt like an enormous weight was lifted off her shoulders. What a gift from God.
This part of the story is so revealing of the Lord’s heart for us. Mary is literally carrying the Hope of the Nations, the Son of God, the Light of the World – the one who will change everything. But she isn’t just a vessel. Mary is loved by God, so much so that he hand-picks a friend to support her through it all.
What. A. Gift.
I often underestimate the sheer power of friendship. When I’m in a hard place, my first inclination is to isolate – I want to shut myself in my room to reflect by myself. It’s too scary to call a friend, too scary to be vulnerable. But passages like this remind me I’m wrong.
The Lord wants us to seek Him, to confide in Him, to know Him – but that’s not all. If I’ve learned anything from the story of Mary’s conception, it’s that we are meant to be in community with one another. Jesus wants us to be raw, open and vulnerable with our close friends. This message hits close to home now – in a tech-ridden, isolation-heavy society that seems to value privacy more than ever. It feels easy and natural to shut myself in my room and binge-watch Netflix when I’m feeling sad or stressed, but that sort of response doesn’t bring about any healing. Here’s what does help us heal: open conversations with good friends.
Are you searching for something today? Are you struggling? Lost? Feeling alone? Like Mary and Elizabeth, are you waiting for Hope?
First and foremost, yes – every day, seek the Lord. But next? Seek a friend.