Earlier this week our family celebrated the life of Elizabeth Ellis. As I’ve spent time writing about the strength and dignity of the New Testament Elizabeth, I’m reminded of the life of faith lived out by my Auntie Elizabeth. Her wisdom, guidance, and spiritual maturity inspired many to draw closer to God. Although she will be deeply missed here on earth, we know that there is an almighty party going on in heaven at the moment. I wasn't well enough to attend her funeral this week, so this is my small way of remembering her. Thank you for your faithfulness Auntie Elizabeth.
Both my children were due before the arrival of Father Christmas, and both turned up after the new year had been welcomed in. I’d like to say I’m not bitter about it, but Christmas 2003 and 2013 felt like they would never end. When I was expecting my daughter, I was the ripe old age of 37 and officially classed as a “geriatric” mother. Although I was fit and healthy, I could feel a difference in my energy levels compared to my previous pregnancy ten years before. It is for this reason that I have a particular admiration for our first woman of steel, Elizabeth, who was approximately double my age when she discovered she was pregnant.
Elizabeth spent a lifetime longing for a family and due to the beliefs of the time, faced the disapproval of others for something that was beyond her control. God defined Elizabeth differently to the way those around her did. It is her obedience and righteousness that is highlighted first in Luke’s account of this story, rather than her family situation. Scripture makes it clear that Elizabeth was “righteous in God’s eyes” (Luke 1:6). God loved Elizabeth deeply and trusted her with a crucial role in preparing the way for Jesus.
Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, was told by an angel that his wife would give birth to a child who would “prepare the people for the coming of the Lord” (Luke 1:17). Understandably, Zechariah struggled to get his head around this. I don’t want to be too hard on Zechariah because even after a chat with a great big angel, I’d still be questioning the chances of a woman in her eighties conceiving naturally…or at all for that matter! As a result of his lack of faith, Zechariah remained silent until John was born.
When she discovered she was pregnant, Elizabeth responded differently to Zechariah. It would have been so easy for her to fall into bitterness and anger while questioning God’s timing. Why had she had to wait so long? Why put her through all those years of tears and heartache? Instead, she exclaimed, “How kind the Lord is!” In the middle of this situation, Elizabeth was able to see God’s goodness. She recognised that the child she was carrying would prepare the way for the Messiah. When her relative Mary came to visit, she immediately exclaimed:
“God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honoured, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” (Luke 1:42-45)
Many would have greeted their teenage, pregnant, unmarried relative with a look of disgust, demanding an explanation for the shame brought upon the family. Instead, Elizabeth showed wisdom and discernment. She could see past the perceptions of others and knew that God was in this. She demonstrated to this young woman, what it truly meant to hold firm to God’s truth and trust in His promises.
Elizabeth walked ahead of Mary, showing her how to be a woman of steel.
I am grateful for the women of steel who have walked ahead of me, sharing their wisdom and guidance throughout my journey. Mary watched Elizabeth walk this path with grace and dignity and live out the will God had for her life.
Who are the women of steel in your life, the ones who have mentored you, supported you and prepared the way ahead of you?
Take time to get in touch with them and thank them for the vital role they play in your life. This week our family said thank you for our own Elizabeth, which woman of steel do you need to thank God for this Christmas?