Four Unexpected Visitors

shelley noonan Blog Posts, Christmas, Shelley's Blog

The month of December is certainly the time of year to have an open-door policy for unexpected guests.  At my home, family and friends make the annual trek back to their hometown and often drop in unexpectedly for some coffee, a meal or even a place to sleep. I love it when this happens, but I have to admit, I also have to prepare my heart for these unheralded visits that will interrupt the plans I have for the day or evening.  How about you? How do you respond when you have unexpected people dropping by?

Today, I hope you take a moment out of your business, sit down with me, grab a mug of something hot and take a look at the first study on the women of Christmas, Elisabeth, Mary, and Anna.  Each of these women experienced things they weren’t expecting before Jesus’ birth and right after.  Elisabeth had unexpected visitors; Mary experienced unexpected circumstances. And finally, dear old Anna expected the unexpected! Today, let’s explore how a godly older woman manages four unexpected visitors in her life and see how they might help you handle yours!  Elisabeth’s story is from Luke 1:5-26, 39-45, 56-80

Name: Elisabeth means God is my oath. Elisabeth’s husband alludes to her names meaning in Luke 1:67-79 specifically in verse 73, with the reference of ‘the long-awaited, promised one.

Family: Luke describes Elisabeth as a descendant of Aaron – Luke 1:5 She came from the priestly line of Aaron and so did her husband, Zechariah. We find this in Exodus 6:23. She was the cousin of Mary, mother of Jesus but many years older.

Wife of Zechariah: Zechariah was a priest. Priests could marry pious women and Elisabeth qualified (Lev 21:7).  His names mean ‘Memory of the Lord’ or ‘Yahweh Remembers’. Zechariah was a priest of the Abijah who ministered in the temple. These priests served at the temple twice each year, and only for a week each time.

Godly: She and her husband were righteous, in God’s eyes this means to walk blamelessly in all the commandants and requirements of the Lord. What a coveted commendation the Bible gave these two!

Childless: Righteous toward God. Faithful toward her husband. Elisabeth even had the correct pedigree!  And yet, five simple words speak of her unwanted, unasked for condition. Luke 1:7 reads “And yet they had no children.”  To add insult to injury…just to let us the readers know who we are dealing with her, the Bible tells us in Luke 1:18, “Old and Advanced in years, past the age of childbearing.”

This condition of childlessness was particularly humiliating, especially for a priest’s wife. The goal of every Jewish woman was to have babies. The idea was she just might be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah, and the Savior promised to Eve way back in Genesis 3:15.

Thankfully, we know from other women in the Old Testament like Sarah in Genesis 18:11 and Hannah in 1 Samuel 1-2 that they remained barren because God had a greater plan. Elisabeth’s bareness and old age heighten the sense that her impending pregnancy was a miracle.

The First Unexpected Visitor!

On this particular day, Zechariah stepped forward into the sanctuary to offer incense. The people waited outside, as did the other priests. It was here he first hears the news of their impending bundle of joy while he was in the temple performing his once in a lifetime duty. Not only is this a first…but he will have many more firsts. First time to get his number drawn to do the temple duty, first time to see an Angel, first time to hear about his son, first time to get struck dumb.

The Angel Gabriel appears to him in Luke 1:11 and says “Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elisabeth shall bear you a son!”  Since the hand of God is clearly evident in what is happening, the listener/reader knows that this will be no ordinary child. Gabriel was specific.

He would be great in the sight of God

He wouldn’t drink wine and would live the life of a Nazarene as a way to set him apart from ordinary people

He would be filled from conception with the Spirit

He would prepare the way for the Messiah

His name would be John

Despite the extraordinary circumstances, Zechariah had his doubts. And he must have thought was it even possible? Luke 1:18 reads, “Zechariah said to the angel by what shall I know and be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years”.

Gabriel assured him that he stood in the very presence of God and had been sent to talk to him and give him this great news. However, because Mr. Z didn’t believe the angel, he was struck dumb in the sanctuary as a sign that God would fulfill his word and grant them a son. When he was done with his duty at the temple, he went home without a word. Home, at last, the speechless Zechariah found comfort in the arms of Elisabeth, and you know how one thing leads to another and…

The Second Unexpected Visitor!

Elisabeth became pregnant – to her surprise and the amazement of her family and friends.

When she realized she was pregnant, she went into hiding. This meant she did not leave her house for any reason, nor receive any visitors. She stayed like this, leading a calm and quiet life until her pregnancy became obvious to all.

Elisabeth hid herself away for five months and in the sixth month she had…

The Third Unexpected Visitor!

Cousin Mary appeared in her doorway after a 60-mile walk by foot. As you remember Mary was told by the busy angel Gabriel that Elisabeth was pregnant.  Now, consider that Mary was newly pregnant and walked for 3-4 days just to get to her older relative – perhaps the only other woman on earth who could understand the miraculous event that took place.

As Mary walked in the door of Elisabeth and Zechariah’s home the 6-month-old fetus in Elisabeth’s womb leaped! He leaped for joy recognition of being in the presence of the redeemer of the world. Both Elisabeth and her baby in utero John were mightily affected by the Holy Spirit. Elisabeth gave Mary the prophetic title of The Mother of my Lord (Luke 1:43) Just think….my Lord!

The Fourth Unexpected Visitor!

Elisabeth knew in her spirit—enlightened by the Holy Spirit that the Messiah had finally come. Her Savior was on earth. Mary replied with her spirit-filled response called the Magnificat found in Luke 1:46-56.  Note how similar Elisabeth’s response is to Hannah’s response in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

So, maybe about now you are asking how in the world does the life of Elisabeth apply to my life? What can I learn from her?

Here are three questions to help you process Elisabeth’s amazing life and apply it to yours. Read the passages in Luke 1:5-26,39-45, 56-80

  1. Ponder how Elisabeth opened the door for each of these four unexpected events by her response?
  2. What unexpected events happen to you and your family during the weeks preceding Christmas?
  3. How can you metaphorically swing the door open wide for these surprise guests?

I used the Selah Method to study the passages in Luke about Elisabeth.  If you would like more information on this simple method of study visit

Join me next week as we learn how to manage unexpected circumstances through the life of Mary!