The first Christmas town we enter is not Nazareth or Bethlehem as you might expect. It is “a town in the hill country of Judea,” most likely Hebron, also known as the city of priests. This unknown town is where Mary went to confirm her faith in God’s power to do the impossible.
Truth is something that everyone says they want. Yet rarely does anyone desire the effects of truth. Truth, by its very nature, causes disturbance and raises questions. Truth can simply be unsettling and sometimes hard to believe. For example, when the angel came to Mary and told her that she was highly favored and would give birth to Jesus it was the truth. However, that would be hard to believe, if you were Mary…not to mention her fiancé Joseph. Stop and think for a moment how hard all of this would be to believe. But she did believe. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38). Simple. Powerful.
We like to talk about Mary’s acceptance of God’s will as though the case was closed. OK. On one hand it was a done deal. Yet, by her actions, it seemed like Mary needed confirmation of what she had been told. So, for me at least, this is where the story gets interesting because the first thing Mary did once she was told that she would give birth to Savior of the world was to head for the hill country to visit relatives! Why did Mary do that? It seems like she did it to confirm what the angel had just told her.
But why did she go to visit Elizabeth? While Mary’s pregnancy gets most of the media attention, Elizabeth’s pregnancy was part of God’s story too. And almost as if to prove that nothing is impossible with God, the angel mentions Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:36, 37)
Apparently it helped Mary to know that if God was doing impossible things somewhere else that he could also do impossible things in her life. Elizabeth confirmed the truth that Mary had been told by the angel.
“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:45)
The angel greeted told Mary that was highly favored by God (Luke 1:28). To be highly favored means to cause to be the recipient of a benefit, bestow favor on, favor highly, or bless. It can also carry the idea of receiving unfair preferential treatment. Sounds like something everyone would desire; right. Yet, the highly favored becomes the greatly troubled. It seems that that may be one reason she took the journey to see Elizabeth. She believed God and just wanted the truth confirmed: that she had found favor with God.
While you may find it difficult to believe, you are also highly favored by God. The only other place in the New Testament where the word meaning “highly favored” is used is to describe Christians. I am not making that up. (Ephesians 1:6). Just as Mary was highly favored, so also because of Christ we are highly favored or “made accepted.”
“In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1:5-8)
The unknown town represents a place of confirmation of truth. What was confirmed about truth? It was confirmed that God was working out his will in more than one place at a time. God was at work in both Mary and Elizabeth. It was confirmed that God was working through them for the good of mankind. Here is a big thought: God still works through his people for the good of mankind.
For me this story confirms that the secret to real happiness is faith, which simply means to take the Lord at his Word, because the one who has faith receives the fulfillment of God’s promises. Mary returns home strengthened after her long visit with Elizabeth where she would be better able to go back to Nazareth and brave all suspicion there.
Confirmation to truth sometimes comes in the most unlikely places. When God calls you, it matters not where you live. God will find you and use you from that place. Be obedient to him wherever you are. Be Christ in your family, your church, and your town. It didn’t matter that Elizabeth lived in an obscure place, it mattered that God knew where she lived.
The bottom line is that everyone experiences doubt. Just as Mary needed Elizabeth to confirm what she had been told, we sometimes need others to confirm truth for us. Mary did not seek confirmation because she did not believe God, but rather because she did believe him. Sometimes we need confirmation as well. But first, read this out loud, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (you cheated…now go back and read it out loud). God still does the impossible. Then and now!