Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Birth in the Neighborhood (Luke 1:57-58)

57Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 

Luke 1:57-58 (ESV)

My friend Ester waited patiently outside.

"Come on Diana," she called.  Well, maybe she wasn't so patient. "The women say it is almost time for the birth.  My mother has been with Elizabeth since early last night.  She said this would be a difficult birthing, since Elizabeth is so old."

I hurried out, eager as were all of us in the neighborhood.  A few months ago, Elizabeth, the wife of the priest Zechariah, announced that she was five months pregnant.  Elizabeth and her husband are both very old.  They had never been able to conceive children.  The local women, including my mother and Ester's were always speaking with pity for the unfortunate couple who would have been great parents.

Ester strode ahead of me, always in a hurry.  She turned back a number of times and motioned for me to catch up.

"I heard she has been in labor for a while now," Ester informed me. "The baby will come soon.  This is a miracle you know.  We should be there to witness."

I shrugged my shoulders.  'Miracles did not happen to simple folk like us' I wanted to say, but held my words inside.  There is much that I am skeptical about.  Miracles, Angels and the promises of the Most High are just a few.

"You know that old Zechariah lost his voice back some time ago.  He has not spoken since that day in the temple.  Some of the elders have said that he saw a vision. They think it may have been an angel sent from God."

"How did you hear that?" I asked.

She smiled with a sly manner which showed her mischievous side. "I am a good listener, especially when my mother thinks I am not paying attention."

We neared the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  A few women from the neighborhood were gathered outside.  Ester's mother, a midwife, would be inside, helping the mother-to-be in any way possible.  It is the duty of a woman to bear children, although I've heard it is quite painful.

"Do you remember the young girl who was here visiting Elizabeth a few months ago," Ester spoke as we stood back from the gaze of the older women.

I nodded. "If I remember, her name was Mary.  She too was with child, but she barely showed."

"She was related to Elizabeth... maybe a cousin," Ester added.

We heard a couple cries of pain from beyond the front entrance of the house.  I cringed, blood and physical pain are not things I handle well.

"It is a natural thing Diana," Ester said as my skin was turning white.

"How old do you think that young girl... Mary was?"

"A couple years older than you and I."

"I do not think I could do this."

"When your time comes you will.  It is a miracle, birth, new life and the joy of holding a new born child wipes away all the pain you ever felt."

"How do you know this?"

"Like I said, I listen."

We slipped in through the open door as the older women were busy arguing about matters which were unimportant.  I hoped I would not find myself to be like them when I aged.  My experience this far in life convinced me that most people harden as they grow older.  I hoped I would not, but Ester tells me that believing in the impossible keeps us like children and I am much too serious.

We moved along a wall to our right.  A few women were gathered around the old woman's mat.  There where grunting sounds that would have caused both of us to giggle, if we had not had some understanding of the pain Elizabeth had to endure.

Then suddenly there was a cry of a baby.  A beautiful baby boy, held up by Ester's mother.  We all made eye contact.  Ester and I should have been outside.  My friend's mother smiled at us and we knew we would not be scolded, our presence was acceptable.

"See," Ester whispered, "it is a miracle.  It is a miracle of our God."

I had to agree.

copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr  

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