Summary: It wasn't just wise men who had gifts for the Lord. Find out who the three wise women were, what their gifts were, and what they can teach all of us, even now!
The Three Wise Women -- Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna
Last week we spoke about the Magi who came and gave gifts to Jesus after He was born. We think of them as the “Three Wise Men”, even though we really don’t know how many there were. Each of the Magi’s gifts had a specific meaning and relevance to Christ the person, Christ the Son of God, and Christ the sacrificial lamb. They travelled a long distance to publically worship Him, then left. We don’t know their names; in fact, all we know is in 12 verses of Matthew.
Tonight, though, I want to share the stories of the three wise women of Christ’s birth, and they gifts they brought. These women were mentioned multiple times in multiple gospels, and were even mentioned by name. In fact, much more time is spent discussing these three women than the Magi. Any guesses on who the three wise women were?
Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna.
Let’s start with Elizabeth. Some of you may remember me saying several weeks go that I’m a big believer that names have meaning, and I chose the name “Elizabeth” for my daughter for a reason. The name “Elizabeth” means “Promise of God” or “Fulfilment of God” -- in this case, “fulfilment” is referring to a promise that God has already kept. Keep that in mind as we read Luke 1:5-7:
“5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.”
We’re introduced to Elizabeth through her husband, Zechariah; one of the priests of Judea. We’re told that they were both descendants of priests (Zechariah through Abijah, Elizabeth through Aaron), and were righteous and blameless. Sound like pretty good people! But, verse 7 shows that things weren’t all rainbows and puppydogs for them -- Elizabeth could not get pregnant, and they were both very old.
Just to put things in perspective, “very old” here probably means somewhere in their seventies or eighties. Never got pregnant, never had any children. Today, that doesn’t seem like that big of a deal -- there are a lot of people out there with no children, right? Back then, though, this was a huge issue. Back then, getting pregnant was considered a blessing from God -- if you’re married and you can’t get pregnant, then obviously God is withholding His blessing from your life, right? You must be filled with sin! Elizabeth was obviously a terrible person! I can see the gossipers now -- wondering if the sin belonged to Elizabeth, or Zechariah; or both of them! Nasty looks behind their backs, pitying looks to their face.
How many of you can relate to doing your best to live for the Lord, but despite everything people still make up rumors about you, and assume you have sin because your walk doesn’t look like theirs?
Remember what her name means? “Promise of God” and “Fulfilment of God”. Elizabeth knew that God had a promise for her life, and that it had already been fulfilled -- she just needed to keep her faith long enough to see it!
She kept up the faith, even when it got difficult. And, she was rewarded for it! Like her name says, God’s promise was fulfilled! One day Zechariah was chosen to enter the temple and burn incense at the altar. While he was in there an angel appeared to him and told him that Elizabeth would bear a son! Verse 15 shows that that son would be a very special man -- John the Baptist, the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah.
“15for 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.”
Elizabeth never gave up her faith. She was confident that God’s promise was coming, and that God wouldn’t ever forget about her or her desire for a child. She trusted in Him to provide a miracle when no one else thought it was possible. Elizabeth is happy! Verse 25:
“25‘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.’”
After this, though, before her son was even born, another woman came around: Mary. Mary tells Elizabeth that she’s pregnant with the Messiah! Talk about a potential buzzkill -- Elizabeth is finally pregnant with her own very special son when this 15 year old comes up to her and says that she’s pregnant with the Most Special Son of all! But Elizabeth doesn’t see it that way -- she is excited, praises the Lord, and rejoiced not only at what the Lord did in her life, but what He was doing in other people’s lives as well. Luke 1:39-25: