This is a story of two women – one “very old,” the other quite young. The older one was married to a priest. The younger one was engaged to a local carpenter. The older one had prayed for years for a child and had been disappointed month after month, year after year. The young one was still a virgin, looking forward to her marriage.Both became pregnant.

The older woman, Elizabeth, went into seclusion for five months.

The younger woman, Mary, was visited by the angel Gabriel and told that she would become pregnant and that her relative Elizabeth was already pregnant. Mary left a few days later to visit Elizabeth.

The women could hardly be more different:

  • They are one, perhaps two, generations apart in age
  • Elizabeth had been married for many years; Mary was looking forward to marriage
  • Elizabeth’s husband was a priest; Mary’s fiancé was a carpenter
  • Elizabeth did not receive a heavenly visitation bringing news of the birth; Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel
  • Upon learning of her pregnancy, Elizabeth immediately went into seclusion; Mary immediately went to visit Elizabeth

Yet how very similar they were. Both women were obedient to the Lord. Scripture describes Elizabeth as “from the priestly line of Aaron” and “righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations” (Luke 1:6-7). When Mary learned that she would become an unwed mother, an action that would most likely cause her fiancé to break off their engagement and publicly disgrace her, replied “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever He wants. May everything you have said come true” (Luke 1:38).

This is also the story of two men – Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah and Mary’s husband Joseph. The men are an integral part of the story, and they are as different from one another as the women are. Zechariah was a priest and the angel Gabriel spoke directly to him before Elizabeth became pregnant. Joseph was a carpenter and received a dream after Mary had learned that she would be come pregnant. In the dream, he was told to that Mary would give birth to the messiah and that he should marry her.

And yet, like the women, they are very much alike. Both were honorable, God-fearing men. Zechariah had remained married to his wife even though she didn’t provide him with a child in their early years of marriage. When he learned that his wife would become pregnant, he finished out his service to God before returning to his wife. Scripture records Joseph’s response to his dream: “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded. He brought Mary home to be his wife, but she remained a virgin until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus” (Matthew 1:24-25).

Elizabeth and Zechariah. Mary and Joseph. Two couples who were used by God to change the course of history. Elizabeth was the mother of John the Baptist. Mary was the mother of Jesus.

So what’s my point? My point is that God uses people from very different backgrounds and in very different stages of life, if they are willing to be used by Him. One could even say that He uses them in spite of their current circumstances (Elizabeth was barren and Mary was a virgin). They key component for being used by God doesn’t seem to have much to do with our circumstances – which, let’s face it, we have very little control over, but a whole lot to do with being willing to be used by Him – which we do have control over.

Where are you? This Christmas season, are you bemoaning your circumstances and perhaps even using them as an excuse NOT to do what God wants you to do, or are you being like Mary and saying “I am the Lord’ servant, and I am willing to accept whatever He wants.”

If you have accepted Christ, He has an assignment (or two, or three) for you. Don’t back down from them. Let Mary be your example this season and be ready to say “yes” to whatever God calls you to.

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