Pregnancy and Jesus
The story of Jesus starts with the story of a couple who has never been able to conceive a child. The couple had become too old to even consider trying anymore.
The frustrating thing is that they had done everything right. They weren’t like those other “sinners” who drank and partied and, whoops, accidentally created the miracle of life. No, these are good religious people we’re talking about here.
They were righteous. The Bible literally says that.
The Biblical writer, Luke, tells us in chapter 1, starting in verse 6 (NLT):
“Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.”
Righteous means that they always did the right thing. They used their bodies in the right way. They treated their spouse the right way. They lived their lives in the right way. They were “righteous.”
And on top of that Zechariah was a priest! That’s got to count for something!
But they still couldn’t get pregnant. For years.
And this is a common story in the Bible apparently. The story of Elizabeth and Zechariah echoes back to the story of Sarah and Abraham — who weren’t just too old to have a child, they are described in the bible as so old they were as good as dead. (Romans 4:19) When your body is almost dead, you can be pretty confident that your near-dead body is not going to create new life.
Sarah was so old that when she found out she was going to have a baby, she laughed in God’s face! (Genesis 18:12) It was so laughably ridiculous to her that she even named her son “Isaac” which means “laughter.”
Let’s get back to Zechariah and Elizabeth.
One thing that might be comforting as we study scripture and struggle to conceive is that this is a common story and it’s not a new dilemma to God.
And you are not alone.
You are in the company of many people who have had to wait. Good, righteous, faithful people have had the same struggles as you as they wait and wait and wait on God.
Wait with those who wait.
When you feel alone. When you question God’s timing. When you question whether you’ve been good enough or whether God is somehow punishing you for something. Wait with those who wait. Wait with Elizabeth. Wait with Sarah. Wait with those who wait.
Of course, not everyone has to wait. Some people seem to have an unfairly easy time getting pregnant and it’s easy to feel jealous.
Like Mary in the story. Cute little teenage Mary comes along. And Mary doesn’t just get pregnant ‘by accident’ like some of those other women we’re jealous of — but she gets pregnant without even having sex! It’s so unfair!
And when you’re waiting, it’s easy to feel (rightfully) jealous. But instead of being overcome with jealousy, instead choose to be overcome with joy.
Celebrate with those who celebrate.
Pregnancy is always a miracle. Every part of the development of life is a miracle. Sure we can explain what is happening scientifically, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that what is happening is nothing short of a miracle. Just because it’s “common” doesn’t mean it’s not still miraculous. Celebrate the miraculous.
Celebrate with those who celebrate.
Even when it hurts to celebrate. Even if it feels like you can’t celebrate. Celebrate anyway.
Finally, Elizabeth gets to celebrate as she becomes pregnant herself.
“The angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.’” (Luke 1:13, NLT)
Now, had Elizabeth trained herself to become jealous at every other pregnancy, then even when she became pregnant herself, it would have been all too easy to become jealous of people like Mary.
“C’mon, Cousin Mary! My miracle pregnancy wasn’t miraculous enough? Now you’ve got to swoop in and make me feel like old news?”
Don’t train yourself to be jealous at the pregnancy of others.
John won’t even let Elizabeth consider jealousy when Mary comes to steal Elizabeth’s thunder!Because at the sound of pregnant-Mary’s greeting John jumps for joy as he celebrates for Elizabeth inside her womb.
Celebrate with those who celebrate. Wait with those who wait.
But what if my waiting never turns to celebration?
Whether or not you personally ever conceive, you still have reason to celebrate because Mary has conceived a child. And the birth of that one child is what every other birth is all about.
Every other pregnancy, every other birth, every other baby ultimately brings us joy because it points us to the one birth in all of history that matters most: Jesus.
Choose to celebrate Jesus.
Even in utero John understands his place in the bigger story of Jesus. John is not the main character. John’s life is ultimately not about himself. John’s life is about celebrating Jesus. John articulates this perfectly later in life when his own disciples begin to desert him in order to follow Jesus. John says,
“[Jesus] must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30, NLT)
And whether or not any other baby is ever born to us, the one baby that matters more than any of them has already been born.
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, NLT)
So wait with those who wait. Celebrate with those who celebrate. And even if your waiting never turns to the celebration you hope for, celebrate Jesus.