Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant

Dear Elizabeth,

Of all the people I have thought about in preparation for advent this year, you are my favourite (apart from Jesus, but hopefully that goes without saying!).

As I prepared to write these blogs, I made myself a playlist of carols, and listened to them on my commute to work most days throughout October. This is an outrage of our time because one of the few remaining modern commandments is “thou shalt not celebrate Christmas before Halloween”. But, as I did, I was particularly struck by these words: O Come all ye faithful, joyful
and triumphant.

Faithful. Joyful. Triumphant.

And then as I read your story I was struck by how these words apply to you. 

You were faithful.

Luke writes about how you and Zechariah were righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the law. Of course you weren’t perfect- but you were faithful. You were faithful even though life for you didn’t seem to go as I imagine you had hoped it would. You suffered the sadness and cultural shame of never having had a child- and yet you were still faithful. You still looked to the Lord and trusted him, even though there were some blessings you wanted but hadn’t received. Later, when Zechariah was mute and everyone expected your child to be named after him, you stayed faithful to what your husband had been told: “no; he shall be called John.” You were faithful and trusted God, even when it was difficult. You stood up for what was right, even when you were the only one who could. If I can have a little of your faithfulness in my life, I will be grateful.

You were also joyful. 

You delighted to support Mary as she carried Jesus in her womb. You were filled with the Spirit and were able to say to your cousin: “blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” I can’t help but feel if I had been in your situation I might have felt envious of Mary- enjoying the benefits of childbirth in her youth, but more than that, bearing a son who you knew would grow up to be greater than yours. But your joy was so abundant that it overflowed to bless Mary too. You were able to delight in her blessing, you blessed her too and in doing so kept your eyes fixed on the graciousness of God: “why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” You also encouraged her: keep believing in God’s promise to you. Mary was filled with praise, but you paved the way for it. You were humble and kind and overflowing with recognition of God’s goodness and mercy to you. I know, in my life, I have a tendency to be envious of others or to fixate on what I am lacking to such an extent that I miss out on all the goodness God has given me. I’m inspired by your generosity to Mary. It’s made me pray that I will have the same generosity of spirit and thankfulness to God in my life and relationships.

I wonder how much of your son’s ministry you lived for. Did your heart swell with pride as he stood in the wilderness and pointed the way to the coming Messiah? Did your heart break as John was put in to prison, when Jesus said, “the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he”? Were you alive when he was executed for his faithfulness to the Scriptures you helped to teach him?

I don’t know. But I praise the Lamb of God, who your son encouraged so many to behold, that you- and he- are now triumphant. You, and he, were faithful unto death. I think of your son every time I sing one of my favourite hymns:

“His only righteousness I show,
His saving truth proclaim:
Tis all my business here below,
To cry, Behold the Lamb!”

You son embodied this attitude. Though he prepared the way for the LORD, he also modelled the path of following him. He “preached him to all, and cried in death- behold the Lamb!” In the same way that you, his mother, looked away from yourself to another- so did your son. He decreased so that Jesus might increase and was a witness to one greater than himself. In the only way that matters, he was triumphant, because he realised life was not ultimately about him, but about his younger cousin - the Messiah. He lived, and died proclaiming him. Your son was like you, and I hope that in the days I have left before we hang out in glory, I might be able to be like your son in his selfless and sensible commitment to Jesus, and faithful, joyful witness to him. And though being John’s mother must have at times felt heartbreaking and perplexing, it makes my heart happy to know that you are both living in the triumph of your choices to put your all in with Him.

Elizabeth, thank you for being such a model of faithful, joyful, triumphant faith. I am excited to hang out with you in the new creation. I have a feeling you will be lots of joyful fun.

Much love,


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