At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in Judea’s hill country. There she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth…Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months. Then she returned home.
Luke 1:39-40, 56 (New International Reader’s Version)
As we move further into Advent, we return to Mary-before Jesus. It was just after the announcement by the angel Gabriel that Mary was to become pregnant with Jesus (without a man’s help), Mary decided to bolt out of Dodge for a spell and hang out with her cousin, Elizabeth. Now the Scripture doesn’t go into detail why Mary hightailed it out of Nazareth, but something tells me it wasn’t to plan Elizabeth’s baby shower. Yet it intrigued me why a pregnant teenager would risk a dangerous trip from Nazareth to the Judean hill country (probably outside Jerusalem), which is 65 miles (103 km). However Mary wasn’t driving; she probably walked with a caravan of people for safety. Man, my girl’s got balls!
I believe that Mary needed a place to wait out her future. Here she was-pregnant, unmarried, and probably scared out of her wits; despite Gabriel’s pronouncement. Mary may have received word of Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy (waaay past menopause); and with her own miraculous pregnancy, Mary knew she’d find a kindred soul and encouragement during the three months she hung out there. Plus, Mary knew that she wouldn’t catch the crap she probably would’ve caught back home; with the added bonus of Zacharias temporary mutism (verse 1:20) she could have a little peace.
This line of reasoning flies in the face of what we were taught in Sunday School Christmas stories. We’re taught to believe that Mary was happy as a lark upon Gabriel’s news; and had to go to Elizabeth’s to share the news-Woo Hoo! No, I think Mary felt more like a contender in the Roman gladiatorial games (and probably would have rather chosen that fate if truth be told) than a happy mom-to-be.
We all need a place to wait. A place where we can be safe-even for a moment. As we wait for the coming Christ, sometimes where we wait is as important as the waiting itself. Sometimes that place-wherever and whatever it is-can be the sanctuary to give us the strength to wait. A place where we can sort out our thoughts and feelings. A place where we might find others waiting as well. A non-judgmental place where we can be ourselves and open during this time. This was the place I believe Mary found at Elizabeth’s. And although it was only a three month stay, the time may have been enough for Mary to strengthen her for the wait; and prepare her for the birthing of the Christ.
May we all find that place to wait-like Mary did.