Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. Luke 1: 57-58 NRSV
When a baby is born, most people do celebrate and rejoice with the family. If the woman had previously been barren or suffered a loss of a baby, then friends call the child a miracle or a gift from God.
Elizabeth's friends and neighbors see this birth as an example of God showing Elizabeth great mercy.
When I think of being merciful I tend to think of someone being saved from the brink of some disaster. I tend to equate mercy with helplessness or perhaps some kind of sinful state.
The friends and neighbors saw the birth of this son as a way of God giving Elizabeth forgiveness of sins as well as better standing in the community. If she had never given birth, would that mean she lived in an unforgiven state? Without the birth of John, would Elizabeth fallen into some kind of disaster such as divorce, depression, or loneliness?
Are we to immediately assume that those who are barren today do not receive God's mercy. No! We must remember that these are the impressions and statements of Elizabeth's friends and neighbors. They are much like our own friends and neighbors and we always must be careful not to equate their opinion with God's mercy, love and grace.
God, you show mercy in ways that we cannot see. Free us from gossip and feelings of superiority over others who suffer from misfortune and loss. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims