When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Luke 1:57 (NIV)
If you were to ask me five months ago to summarize my life in one word it would be: disgraced! I’d lived in disgrace and believed I’d die in disgrace. That’s not to say that I was like the Moabite woman, you know the one who lives by the old olive tree . . . she’s never been caught, but I’ve seen the glances that pass between her and some of the young men. No, I wasn’t like her – I’ve kept the commandments and regulations all my life.
It was a paradox. I couldn’t figure out why Yahweh hadn’t blessed me. What had I done to be out of favour with God? Why had He given me a dry womb? Why did my husband have to live with the shame of my barrenness? Why had my hopes been dashed, my faith undermined, my piety placed in doubt? And what had my husband done to inherit such shame? He’s a good man. Why did he have to be embarrassed like he was? I saw it in his eyes every time he returned home from a circumcision. But he never complained, never blamed me and never stopped loving me. Not even when we had family gatherings. He thought I didn’t know, but I heard the whispered questions, saw the pained look in his mother’s eyes, blessed be her long departed soul . . .
But that all seems like a long time ago now. Miracle of miracles; our prayers have been answered. God has given me a child in my old age. I feel him growing in me every day! When Zechariah returned from the temple last summer, the first thing he wanted to do was . . . well you know . . . it was completely unexpected, he didn’t say a word, and now the birth is just a few months away.
That’s why I owe you an apology. Please forgive me for hiding away these past months. I was such a jumble of emotions . . . couldn’t believe it at first, and didn’t know how to tell you. And, I must admit, I wanted to be careful, wanted to be sure that the baby would be all-right . . . Place yourself in my sandals; my hope had been gnawed away. I was barren in my womb and my heart. And then I got pregnant! At my age too! I needed time to adjust, to think about this great thing that the Lord has done for me.
God is indeed merciful. Barukh attah, adonai eloheinu, melekh ha-olam . . . He hears the prayers of even an old woman like me. Praise the name of Yahweh. In these days He has shown His favour and taken away my disgrace among the people. Blessed be the name of the Lord!