I am often struck by the solitude and silence all the characters in the theatrical cast of the original Christmas story endured, in preparation for the Messiah’s entrance to the world, and also to the public.
Elizabeth, the elderly, barren mother, who would deliver the forerunner for the Christ, kept herself in seclusion for five months, after discovering that the baby she had longed for would be given to her in her old age.
Zacharias was unable to speak for the entirety of his wife’s pregnancy, because his years of want and discouragement overshadowed his trust in the Lord being able to accomplish what He had promised… to give him a son.
John “lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel” (Luke 1:80). What a place of solitude and reflection.
I can only imagine the public shunning that marked Joseph, Mary and Jesus’ lives. Mary, the virgin, pregnant before marriage. Explain that to a society. Joseph, the obvious suspect of this illicit pregnancy, since he chose to marry her anyways. And Jesus, the bastard child. We cannot fathom the public shame and isolation this seeming-scandal brought on their family.
When Mary proclaimed, with Child in utero, “From this time on all generations will count me blessed” (Luke 1:48), this is obviously true. Mary is so exalted, to this day, that there are some who border worship in their honor and delight in this beloved woman, chosen by God to carry Christ in the womb! But in the details of her day, I’m certain she also endured shame for the womb that delivered salvation to the world.
God Incarnate chose an entire life that would cause Him to endure criticism and shunning from the very people whose calling it was to lead others to God, while simultaneously reaching those who also lived on the recesses of society. Instead of the religious leaders holding their position turned their hearts from God Himself.
I’m amazed by all of this. Year after year, I ponder all this solitude and isolation, and what a blessing it turned out to be for humanity. I imagine all of the solitude prepared them. Solitude is different from isolation, in the sense that solitude leaves us alone with God, as I’m certain all of these six saints were. I can only imagine the preparatory conversations each of them must’ve had with their heavenly Father, as they took on enormous callings- to either raise or be the Messiah and His forerunner.
This year, I can’t help pondering today. This social isolation. This forced solitude. We have had a year where many have experienced a loss of job, estrangement from friends, loss of a loved one (or the inability to visit a loved one in desperate need of care and companionship), a lack of opportunities or places to gather, hug depravation, and many have even been quarantined- isolated for two week increments. And then there’s been the isolation of the public shaming coming from those with differing responses to all of this chaos. The fear and political divide that’s sent many cowering into their hobbles. It’s been hard. I ain’t gonna lie.
But I imagine it was hard on Zacharias, Elizabeth and John, too. And especially on Joseph, Mary and Jesus.
In a strange way, this gives me a lot of hope. Their isolation may have been hard, but it was preparatory towards the most transformative events and Life that would even grace this planet. All of it was. about to unveil that God had made Himself incarnate! So, I muse. And hope. And am reminded, once again, that all may look hopeless in one moment, and in the next God may just unleash His majesty on humanity. So, in this season, I rest with anticipation to see what it is that He is preparing us for, through this time of global solitude, isolation, and silence.
with welling hope,