By Susan Hutchens
“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word . . .” Luke 1:38
In the account of Jesus’ birth and early years in Luke 1-2, we read about the visit of, what we refer to as, “the three wise men.” We don’t really know that there were specifically three wise men, of course; we take that thought from the three gifts they brought to the young child Jesus.
Having said that, we do know for certain that there were three women associated with the birth and first days of Jesus’ life: Elisabeth, the cousin of Jesus’ mother; Mary, Jesus’ mother; and Anna, a devoted woman anticipating the birth of the Messiah. I like to call these the “Three Wise Women of Jesus’ Birth.”
Each of these women was very different from the one another.
Elisabeth was a wife of many years in "the ministry" as the wife of a priest and of the priestly line herself. She was at least middle-aged because she was past her child-bearing years (Luke 1:5-7). Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a single young woman, most likely an older teenager, and of the honored tribe of Judah through which the Messiah would come (Luke 1:26-27). Anna was very old. She'd been a widow for eighty-four years, having only been married for seven years. If we add to those ninety-one years about fourteen years or so as the age she may have married, we can see that she was probably over 105 years old! Anna was of the tribe of Asher, one of the "forgotten tribes.” Maybe she was not considered a descendant of a very important family (Luke 2:36-37).
Each of these women was known for their character.
Elisabeth was a supportive woman. We see that she supported her husband when everyone questioned him (Luke 1:59-63). She also supported Mary when Mary came to her as an unwed, pregnant teenager. I would imagine that almost everyone else in Mary's life was anything but supportive. But Elisabeth, being a spirit-filled woman, realized that the baby Mary was carrying was the long-awaited Messiah and became the first woman to praise the Lord Jesus (Luke 1:41-42)!
Mary was a surrendered woman. One of my favorite verses in the Bible was spoken by Mary: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38). Just to read a bit between the lines, Mary may have wondered how she was going to explain this pregnancy to her parents, family, and friends, especially to Joseph. She probably realized life was not going to be easy for her during the pregnancy; she would lose friends, lose respect in the community, and maybe lose her fiance and his love. But even as she knew these things may happen, she surrendered herself to God's plan. And even though she didn't understand how everything would turn out, she surrendered herself in faith, believing God's Word.
Lastly, Anna was a separated woman. She wasn't just outwardly separated. Yes, she was always at the temple (perhaps lived there) and fasted and prayed night and day (Luke 2:37). Everyone knew how separated she was! But she also had to have been dedicated to God from her heart, because she was familiar with the scriptural prophecies and recognized that the baby Jesus was the Messiah she had been waiting for. She had a good relationship with God and knew His Word as the basis of her outward separation.
As I live each day, I want to be a supportive woman. I want to support my husband and children, my extended family, and my friends through God’s promises in His Word, as Elisabeth did. I’d also love to be a surrendered woman like Mary. I want to make it my practice to daily surrender to God’s will, without question or complaint, even without necessarily understanding. I want to trust Him! And I’d like to be a separated woman, not just outwardly, but more importantly, separated to God inwardly, dwelling with Him through His Word and prayer.
Will you join these three wise women in their support, surrender, and separation to the Lord?
“I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” Elisabeth Elliot