“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
With Christmas just days away, we have prepared our hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus into the world, to set into motion God’s grand plan for our salvation. Of course, Jesus is the main star for the event. But for now, I want to focus on someone who has just as much of an impact: Mary, our mother.
An ordinary woman with an extraordinary purpose
The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) – where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to share with her the good news that God has found favour in her – is a story that is repeated every year during Advent. Throughout the year, we meditate on this story through the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. It is a story that has been told and re-told over and over again, from the moment we were children up until the present age.
Mary, only being 14 or 15 at the time, is confronted with the fact that she is asked to bear a child, despite the fact that she is a virgin. More importantly, this child that she is supposed to bear to full term is the Saviour of the World.
No pressure there, right?
There was definitely doubt, fear, and confusion. But through it all, Mary believed. She gave God her Yes and let the word become flesh within her.
And with that Yes, extraordinary signs and wonders were able to happen, setting into motion God’s plan for the world.
“For no word from God will ever fail”
As I reflect on the sacrifice and faith of Mary, I re-read Luke’s Gospel and the story of the Annunciation. It was a story that I thought I knew inside out – maybe not word for word, but I had the general idea.
When I read it again recently, a verse stuck out to me, so clearly and profoundly, and really put me in my place: “For no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37 – similarly, it shows up way earlier in Isaiah 55:11).
It’s these quick little sentences that, in the grand scheme of the story, I tend to miss. But this is such an important passage.
This line caps off the Angel Gabriel’s explanation of how such a miracle can occur. This is good enough for Mary, and with her faith, she opens herself up to God’s plan, humbling herself as the Lord’s servant.
God’s plan is great, it is mighty, and it is foolproof. He has the blueprints in His hand and knows what will bring each and every single one of us to happiness. But because of His great love for us, He brings us into His plan. He allows us to make our own choices. And He patiently waits for us to run back to Him whenever we fall.
Because God is perfect, every plan and desire that He has is good. It will never fail. God could just do whatever He wanted and run the plan Himself perfectly – because He totally can! But God doesn’t want to keep us away from His plans – He wants us to be a part of them. Instead of hiding the truth, He opens up a world of freedom and choice to us. When we make good choices that align to His plan, we can feel a sense of happiness and fulfillment. It is when we choose a path that is against Him that we feel despair and a sense of loss.
If His word never fails, why is it that we still continue to choose the world, and not Him?
Choosing someone greater than ourselves
Admittedly, it is so easy to say ‘yes’ to what I want. I tell myself that I know exactly what I need in all aspects in my life, because I’m the one living my life. With that logic, I should know better than anyone else how I want my life to unfold.
My desire to hang onto my own great plans, however, definitely impedes on my ability to say Yes to God.
Example: my vocation in life.
It brings me great regret to say that at one point in my life, the thought of becoming a religious sister repulsed me. Looking to the example of my parents as well as other loving couples that were in my life, I longed to start a family of my own. I didn’t want to close myself off from the world (to boys?!); I wanted someone to love me the same way that I would love them, and together, we would have a wonderful family and a wonderful life.
When I became “old enough”, I started to take a serious interest to boys and date them. I always had (and still do have) the mindset of the long-term. As in, I wasn’t looking for something casual. I entered every relationship thinking that this person could be the one that God was saving for me.
I took things seriously, but as my past would indicate, I wasn’t really “good” at it. I had dated a few boys in high school and had crushes on several others, but nothing really stuck. It was around this time 3 years ago that I had started dating someone who would have been my last boyfriend for a long time.
Once that relationship also failed, I began to wonder if I had been cursed with the one thing I had feared my entire life: the single life.
I couldn’t picture myself as a nun. The idea of it sounded so lonely, so isolating, so boring! It was such a difficult thing for me to comprehend. At one point, I had gone to a vocations session and I had spent the entire session crying, because I thought that this was the end of the road for me in terms of vocation.
But over time, as I began to open myself up to God more and more, I began to see that actually, becoming a nun or a religious sister wouldn’t be as boring as I thought. And it most certainly wouldn’t be isolating and lonely – to be with Jesus forever is definitely the opposite of loneliness!
God’s word will never fail. I know that I am still really young (and really over-dramatic), and I know that I still have a whole life ahead of me. There is still so much for me to discover in God’s plan for me. His plan may be for me to have my own family, or it may be to become a nun. Whatever it might be, as long as I follow God and give my Yes, He will never fail me.
What is holding us back?
To close, I wanted to share an anecdote that comes around every so often when discussing God’s plan.
A girl once had a beautiful necklace that was made of fake pearls. She treasured and loved the necklace, wearing it every day. Every night, her father would tuck her into bed, and ask if she would give him her pearl necklace.
Every night, she would refuse, saying that she loved it too much to give it up. She would offer her father something else, such as a toy, instead. The father would smile and wish her good night.
He did this every night for years and years, until one day, when he asked her again, she very tearfully gave her father the necklace. Her father’s eyes lit up, and as he took the necklace away, he revealed to his daughter a blue velvet box. Inside the box was a necklace made of genuine pearls – a necklace that he had waited to give her once she gave up the fake pearl necklace.
If God’s word never fails, He will never harm us. He will never leave us astray or abandoned. And as this story shows, He will never take away something without giving us something greater in return.
As Christmas draws near and our Lord is preparing to be born into our hearts, what are the fake pearls that we are holding onto? What is preventing us from saying Yes to God?
Let us look to Mary, our mother, for inspiration and guidance. Her docility enabled God to become man on Earth.
God has an extraordinary plan for each of us, one that only we ourselves can carry out. The plan may not be easy, and the road may be tough. But with God, nothing is impossible. He will give you what you need, and He needs YOU!
Lead image: Chris Koelle
Wishing you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas! May the happiness and blessings of the season bring you great joy! And as always, thank you for reading! – Rachel