Hard to say which is more difficult—being patient or being quiet. Elizabeth spent a lifetime waiting, hoping, praying for a son. Month after month, year after year, the only thing that grew inside her was more patience.
When the happy day came and her prayers were answered, she kept the news of her pregnancy to herself, not shouting it from the hilltops, not even venturing past her door for five long months of quiet seclusion.
Elizabeth surely had “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4). If, like me, your tendency is to be impatient and anything but quiet, let’s see what we might learn from our first-century sister.
And do take a look at Elizabeth’s very own Pinterest board in beautiful burgundy—always a flattering color on a mature woman.
Read Chapter Two: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Read Luke 1:19–25
Elizabeth fell silent by her own choice. Zechariah fell silent by God’s choice. When her husband heard the good news spoken by the angel Gabriel and voiced his doubts, those were the last words Zechariah said for many months.
“And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens” (Luke 1:20), Gabriel told him. Many commentators believe Zechariah not only couldn’t speak, he also couldn’t hear, since the Greek word kophos is also translated “deaf,” and later his friends spoke to him with their hands (Luke 1:62).
So. No sound, no speech.
Punishment for his sin of unbelief? No. This was the proof Zechariah had asked for. His advanced age and Elizabeth’s barren womb were no match for God’s power. The same God who took away his voice could assuredly give him a son.
Listen, beloved: God is not limited by our faith, nor hampered by the lack of it. Even if we don’t believe the promises written in God’s Word, they will still “come true at their appointed time” (Luke 1:20).
That’s what God was communicating to Zechariah back then, and to us right now.
You are not in charge. I am.
When Zechariah came out of the temple and into the waiting throng, “he could not speak to them” (Luke 1:22). They knew at once this wasn’t a throat problem. Their priest had clearly experienced a holy encounter in the temple and seen “something special from God” (NLV).
Zechariah would never be the same. Elizabeth was changed as well. When we come face to face with our Creator, he makes a dramatic difference in what we think, what we say (or don’t say), and what we do.
“After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant” (Luke 1:24). A matter-of-fact miracle. No bells and whistles, no fanfare. In the silence of their bedroom, in the stillness of the night, a child was conceived by the grace and mercy of God.
Rather than tearing around their village of Ein Kerem, telling everyone their happy news, Elizabeth stayed home, “and for five months remained in seclusion” (Luke 1:24). Once again, our woman of Christmas was patient, quiet. Perhaps waiting for the quickening, that first noticeable movement in the womb.
A tiny flutter, yet a seismic shift for a mother-to-be.
My child is real. My child is alive.
When Elizabeth emerged from her self-imposed silence, she did so glorifying God: “The Lord has done this for me” (Luke 1:25). These are the words I want written across the pages of my life: “How kind the Lord is!” (NLT).
Elizabeth knew it wasn’t her righteousness that caused her womb to be filled.
It was God’s righteousness, God’s goodness, God’s kindness, God’s love.
Her words demonstrate Elizabeth’s maturity far more any wrinkles or age spots might show us. “Look what the Lord has done for me!” (ERV). Even the naysayers of the neighborhood couldn’t argue with her baby bump. “This is the Lord’s doing” (CEB), she told them.
God took away not only her barrenness, but also her heartache, her sorrow, and her shame.
Her story assures us of God’s ability to make all things new. His love fills us up and makes us whole. His mercy assures us our past is forgiven and forgotten. His power alters our present and guarantees our future.
Can you wait patiently, confident that God is at work in your life? Can you listen for his voice, rather than fill the air with your doubts? Can you say with Elizabeth, “How good the Lord is to me” (PHILLIPS)?
Those are the questions I’m asking myself this morning. Please, Lord, may I answer with all my heart, “Yes, yes, yes.”
From the Study Guide
Elizabeth spent all nine months of her pregnancy with a husband who could not speak or hear. In what ways might that lengthy silence have been a challenge for these two—individually and as a married couple?
We’re so accustomed to expressing ourselves with words that it had to be difficult for this couple to communicate only non-verbally. Facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures—all familiar after so many years of marriage—would have covered the necessities of life. Pass me the lentils. I’ll wash if you’ll dry. Can you get that itch in the center of my back? But volatile emotions could easily stay locked inside, and frustration might look more like anger building into rage, without any words of explanation to smooth hurt feelings.
And how might that silence have been an unexpected blessing?
Without words to get in the way, these two could really look at each other, letting their eyes speak for them. Touch would take on new significance. Intimacy would be heightened. Sounds are often a distraction, while silence lends itself to deep thoughts and long internal conversations. They would surely understand each other—and themselves—better after so many months of solitude, and emerge with a greater faith in God and deeper love and appreciation for each other.
If the Lord silenced you even for a day, what lessons might you learn?
Actually, the Lord once silenced me for several days with laryngitis. I quickly discovered that I talk too much and listen too little. I learned that unspoken prayers are still heard, and unspoken thoughts still help us make sense of what we’re experiencing. I was shocked to find that life went on amazingly well without my ongoing commentary. I also decided that my husband was even brighter than I’d realized, and that my children were more compassionate than I knew. I was almost sad when my voice returned. (My family probably was too, but they were kind enough to keep that under wraps!)
Now it’s your turn
Two simple questions this week:
- Was there something in Chapter Two that stood out to you?
- What might you discover if the Lord silenced you for a day?
Kindly share your response under Post a Comment below. As you know from reading various quotes sprinkled throughout The Women of Christmas, I treasure your words and the encouragement you offer one another.
If you missed my post on Chapter One, you’ll find a link below. Don’t have a copy of The Women of Christmas yet? Here’s the best price I found this week online.
Bless you for making time to study God’s Word together this busy season!
Your sister, Liz
P.S. Here’s your personal video invitation to join me online with Ann Voskamp for Christmas at the Farm: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. Such a fun, encouraging hour! Our webcast will remain on both our websites for many seasons to come. Thanks for joining us!