Elizabeth was not the first woman to wait a lifetime to be a mother. She was part of a long history of hopeful women, including Sarah and Hannah. Each one watched friends, relatives, younger women from the neighborhood wed, become pregnant, and step into a new life that was always just beyond their reach. Each one had a man who loved her, had a home, and had chores to keep them busy each day. But they lacked the sound of a child’s laugh to fill in a piece that for them was still missing. Other women might not feel it, but Sarah, Hannah, and now Elizabeth were forever waiting for life to begin.
How many times had she spent a day, or maybe a week thinking that maybe this time she would be a mother. Elizabeth would hold her breath and let her hand rest on her stomach, praying silently for the life she hoped was growing there. Maybe this was this time that God would delight in her. Then the morning would come and again it was clear that instead of a child, she was unclean. What a cruel punishment of the fall that not only would this woman fall short, again, but also that she would be bared from worship for days. The body that refused to give life instead gave only separation and isolation.
Women from the village would bring their children over to visit, offering comfort to Aunt Elizabeth and later to Grandma Elizabeth. Little hands grasping onto her wrinkles and little feet scampering through the halls that normally were so silent. She worshiped the Father in Heaven who blessed her with these little joys. The tears that would pour down after they left would not take away from their joy. She was loved, Elizabeth would remind herself over and over again until the tears dried and the silence of the home became familiar again. Returning to the fire to cook, she would ready the home for her husband Zachariah’s return from the temple.
They used to talk often about starting a family. Discussing who to name the first son after and who the daughter might look like. Imagining how their lives would change and even who might be good matches in the village for their playmates and eventual betrothals. Their home would fill will noise and mess and joy. Each time that the cycle of hope and separation occurred, their conversations became a little less often. As years passed, the options for playmates shifted to another generation. Elizabeth might hold onto hope in her heart, but to speak it, even to her beloved husband, was too cruel for either. Instead they prayed for their village, their friends, and for the little joys who visited.
The day Zechariah was chosen to enter the holy of holies, it was like any other day for Elizabeth. The home was clean and silent. No tears were on her cheeks. Everything was settled into its status quo with no real hope or change to wait for. Instead there was wonder at what Zechariah might share from his day. What truths might he better understand or actions might be pursuing for their people. This day might bring great change for him among the priests. But for Elizabeth, she was too tired and too worn out to anticipate anything. She would be here, in the home, with a meal ready in their silent home.