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Let us be gentle with each other - Desk of Andrea

Pondering Elizabeth and Mary’s place in the Christmas story sparks memories for me of living among women in the Middle East. Most summers I celebrated the wedding of a young Palestinian couple. The bride normally in her late teens, always a virgin, was expected to have given birth to her first child, hopefully a son, by the time the first wedding anniversary arrived. And every month preceding that she would be asked by the women in her family and village whether she was pregnant yet, particularly by her Mother in law. 
So, Elizabeth’s barrenness and Mary’s pregnancy out of wedlock would have been a week by week, month by month, flood of enquiry, hateful stares, lowered eyes, whispered gossip, pity, distain, and alienation. How much they must have enjoyed each other’s company and how clear it is to see why Mary hurried to Elizabeth’s home. I also think how important it was for Mary to be physically distant from Joseph when she conceived so that it was obvious that he could not be the father of her child. And why she waited until she was some months pregnant before she returned.
We live with the mystery of God, and also at times with suffering because of obedience. This suffering may be gruelling and relentless, not nice and clean and tidy and not easily explained by a happy ending, at least not in this life. Elizabeth and Mary believed God and rejoiced in the birth and life of their sons, yet one ended up with his head on a platter and the other hanging on a tree. Their truly happy ending and ours only comes completely in the resurrection life after death.
As we celebrate Jesus’ birth, and the incredible joy of his life in us now, let us be gentle with each other, mindful that for many, suffering goes on and their truly happy ending hasn’t come yet....
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love, Eph 4:2