Elizabeth, 4 December 2016

Series: First Christmas
Luke 1:46-55

Series Big Idea:
Most know the Christmas story, but what did the individual characters experience?

Big Idea: God is making life out of the barren places.


God is making life out of the barren places.

It happened to Isaac’s parents, Abram and Sarai.
It happened to Samson’s parents, Manoah and his wife.
It happened to Samuel’s parents, Elkanah and Hannah.
It happened to John the Baptist’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth.

It is still happening today.

My name is Kirk and during this season of Advent—this season of waiting—we are looking at the First Christmas through the eyes of various characters in the story. Last week we examined the wise men who traveled likely hundreds of miles to meet the Messiah, possibly years after his birth.

Today’s character is Elizabeth. If you open your Bibles to Luke chapter one you’ll discover the story of Elizabeth. She may be one of the most underrated figures in the Bible. She not only was the mother of John the Baptist, she was old and barren.

Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. (Luke 1:6-7)

They weren’t just old…both Zechariah and Elizabeth were very old!

Very old people are usually called grandparents or great grandparents, not mom and dad! How could this be?

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, did you see the news this week? The tragedy at Ohio State?
God is making life out of the barren places.

God, how are we going to pay off the Visa bill after Christmas?
God is making life out of the barren places.

God, my marriage is a disaster and I feel trapped in misery.
God is making life out of the barren places.

God, I don’t know what to do about these out-of-control children.
God is making life out of the barren places.

God, I really want a baby but the doctor says it’ll never happen.
God is making life out of the barren places.


What do you think of when you hear the word barren? A desert, right?

Fortunately, we no longer use it to describe women unable to have children. But Elizabeth heard it. She heard it for years. It was likely her label. Barren. “That woman over there…she’s barren. I wonder what she did to make God curse her. What secret sin did she commit?”

In the culture, the more children, the more worth you had, the more God loved you. But Elizabeth was barren…for decades. Imagine the shame. Imagine the stares. The whispers. But notice Elizabeth is not an evil woman.

Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. (Luke 1:6-7)

There’s a great story in the Bible that occurs in a barren desert. Actually, the people of Israel spent forty years in the wilderness, a region which contained deserts. On at least two occasions the people complained about having no water to drink.

Now I think that’s a valid concern, don’t you? “Moses, we’re starving in the desert. We’re going to die out here!” At least twice God provides water for the people. It doesn’t rain. It doesn’t come from a well. No food trucks arrive on the scene with water bottles. In the book of Numbers, it says

So Moses took the staff from the LORD’S presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. (Numbers 20:9-11)

The original Hebrew word for “gushed” is “rabbim.” It means great and abundant. God didn’t just provide a little bit of water. He gave an abundance.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible quotes Jesus as saying

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Jesus came to give abundant, full life. Greater life. Extraordinary life. More.

Can you think of a time when God provided in abundance?

For Heather and I, First Alliance Church has been an example of God providing for us abundantly. We could never have imagined a year and a half ago we would be serving alongside so many incredible men, women and children in Glass City. My prayers have been filled with gratitude for His abundant provisions.

But back to Elizabeth and Zechariah!

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. (Luke 1:8-10)

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:11-17)

Zechariah and Elizabeth knew all about Abram and Sarai and their miracle baby, Isaac, born to a 90 year-old mom and a dad who was one hundred years old. So obviously, they were filled with faith and excitement about finally becoming parents, right? No!

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” (Luke 1:18-20)

That’s one way to keep a priest from preaching long sermons!

When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (Luke 1:23-25)

Better late than never, right? Elizabeth’s going to have a baby…but not just any baby. Jesus said of this child

Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11a)


God is making life out of the barren places.

You might wonder what Elizabeth and John the Baptist have to do with Advent and Jesus.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26-28)

Sound familiar? Mary is excited and can’t wait, right?

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:29-33)

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)

Is this a good question? Absolutely! It’s an honest question. Although the word “but” is not here in the English translation, that’s Mary’s response. “But how can a virgin have a baby?”

God is making life out of the barren places.

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:35-37)

Here we have two miracle moms. Two miracle babies. Two examples of God making life out of the barren places. Mary appropriately says

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38)

Then Mary goes to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s home, John the Baptists leaps in the womb when he hears Mary’s voice, and Elizabeth celebrates Mary’s news, leading Mary to say (or sing?)

And Mary said: 

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful 
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones 
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. 
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.” (
Luke 1:46-55)

So What?

God is making life out of the barren places.

I’m not saying every woman unable to conceive will have a baby in nine months.

I’m not promising your student loans will be miraculously forgiven next week.

I can’t even say your troubled marriage is guaranteed to thrive in the new year or that this will be the best Christmas ever.

But I can say God is making life out of barren places. But it might take time.

How well do you wait? Waiting is hard in an on-demand world. The microwave can’t cook quickly enough. The fast food order can’t arrive fast enough. The crazy red light can’t turn green soon enough. If my package takes more than two days to arrive at my doorstep…!!!

Imagine waiting your entire life for something. We do, right? That driver’s license? High school diploma? Spouse? House? Kids?

Kids. Elizabeth and Zechariah waited decades.

Could it be that the very things we desire today
will become reality tomorrow…just not today?

I’ve prayed for many sick people and seen them healed, but not always instantly.

I’ve prayed for many broken relationships and seen them healed, but rarely instantly.

I’ve watch friends overcome addiction and abuse and tragedy, but it took time and work.

“Here’s the formula for waiting: buckle up, don’t grow weary, do good, don’t give up.”
  • - Harvey & Gilbert, Letting Go

God IS making life in the barren places. All the time.

There’s one empty, barren place I love. Nobody is certain exactly where it is, but it’s in the Middle East, in Israel. It’s a barren tomb. It once contained a dead body. A body that was placed in the tomb after a brutal death, a death we remember today.

We celebrate the empty, barren tomb because Jesus is alive! He is risen! He will hear us in three weeks when we sing, “Happy birthday” to him! He is with us know through the Holy Spirit. Best of all, he’s coming back to earth soon. When he does, he will permanently make life out of the barren places of our lives. And until then, we declare Jesus Christ is LORD, Messiah, and King.


Some ideas from SkitGuys.com.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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