I discovered the following excerpt in Walt Wangerin, Jr.'s book Preparing for Jesus: Meditations on the Coming of Christ, Advent, Christmas, and the Kingdom. Wangerin's meditation challenges those of us who are eager to take credit for God-given gifts. But this meditation also reminds us of those impossible and astonishing gifts God bestows — such as Elizabeth's twilight-years pregnancy — but also the more quietly impossible gifts, such as when, Wangerin says, "peace comes into me, though I had been desperately restless and afraid."
Wishing you an astonishing gift this Christmas season,
- Adam Forrest, Zondervan Internet Team
From Preparing for Jesus
Elizabeth, how difficult was it for an old woman to bring an infant to term? You did it almost alone. No one knew but your husband and your cousin Mary. And the midwife: when mute Zechariah went and brought her to your house, and she entered your room and saw your condition, how astonished was she? With what sort of grin did you greet her? And how quickly did the grin twist into a grimace when that mighty muscle contracted to drive a baby into the world? O mother Elizabeth, how did it feel to bear a baby in your old age?
The Lord has shown great mercy to you. Literally, the word is: "The Lord magnified his mercy with you." It's the same word that Mary used in her hymn of praise. [Luke 1:46-55]
And this great mercy shown to you, Elizabeth, is exactly what Mary meant when she sang: "His mercy is on those who fear him." You fear him. You are one of low degree whom God your Savior has exalted. You are the hungry whom he will fill with good things.
And this is how "Mercy" always comes to us, isn't it? — like a baby delivered in old age: the miracle we thought we had outlived, the gift we thought impossible to receive. It always astonishes us.
And this is how "Mercy" comes — like a baby: something which, through us, God gives to us; something completely new and whole on its own; the gift we ourselves must serve and nourish; the gift, nevertheless, that grows up and loves us and finally carries us when we tremble in our dotage.
And this is what "Mercy" is: that which fulfills our heart's desire, that which gives purpose to our lives, that which also allows us not only to be loved, but also to love completely.
So God grants you this child, and that is his mercy.
So when God grants me the healing I could not expect (whether of my body or my spirit — or of the bodies and spirits of those I love) that is his mercy to me. So when peace comes into me, though I had been desperately restless and afraid; and when I, who am weak, act with surprising strength; and when faith arises in my hopeless soul; and when I, whose heart was filled with hatreds, suddenly find forgiveness there; and when others love me, though I know I could not be the source of their loving; and when my children come home with reverence; and when the work of my hand praises God beyond my natural skill; and when what I am is what I ought to be—whenever the impossible gift arrives for me, it is God. It is evidence of his love. It is his mercy so great, that those around me (my neighbors and relatives) are astonished to find me in such a blessed condition after all.
Then let no one call the gift by some earthly name. Though it is I who now must nourish the gift (peace, forgiveness, faith), let no worldly voice argue that I am the source, that I earned or deserve it.
The gift that developed within me was not passed down from my parentage to me, not from my race, my culture, my education, prestige, or position. Nor could it arise from my own self, my nature or my doing.
This great mercy must receive the name God gives to it: John. Johanan: The Lord has been gracious.
God bless you, Mother Elizabeth! Your experience trains me in my own. Your Christmas present teaches me how to receive mine. You have become a midwife to me.
About Preparing for Jesus
In this Advent and Christmas devotional, best-selling author Walter Wangerin, Jr. takes the reader day-by-day through the major events and characters leading up to the birth of Jesus. (36 meditations.)
(Zondervan Internet Team. This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives. The writer's opinions are his own, and are shared for information purposes only. To receive new blogposts in your reader or email inbox, subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)