FIRST SATURDAY OF ADVENT
SCRIPTURE: ISAIAH 29:17-24
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin's name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
"Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end."
But Mary said to the angel,
"How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?"
And the angel said to her in reply,
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God."
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word."
Then the angel departed from her.
Today we celebrate one of the most significant events of our liturgical year, the Immaculate Conception. Luke’s Gospel is all too familiar to us as human beings who believe in and celebrate the life and existence of Jesus. We know this story like the back of our hand: Gabriel came to Mary to tell her that she was having a baby and her baby would be the Son of God and BAM -- Jesus was born and our lives were changed forever. I, and maybe you too, have heard this story what feels like millions of times. It’s a tale as old as time. I even recall reenacting the full story of the Nativity 20+ years ago in elementary school as an auxiliary angel, not quite cut-out to be Gabriel. I probably became qualified for the part with my possession of hand-me-down angel wings from my sisters. Regardless, this story and this day is one that is difficult for us to forget, no matter what our memory of it is.
I often catch myself reading and reflecting on this passage as one that brings life to Jesus, which is 100% accurate and undeniably true. Without Mary’s yes, this story would hold a drastic twist. But that’s exactly it -- Mary said YES. A really big, packed, multi-faceted yes. Had she any idea how her life was about to change? That this yes was one of the most important yeses anyone would ever say yes to? Talk about a drastic twist she didn’t see coming in the story of her life: unveiling her radical trust in our God to bring Jesus into the world, which in turn brought us to life.
I love the word radical. I need to use it more, and probably live it more. Google defines radical as such:
(especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.
Jesus lived a pretty radical life, serving the unloved, broken, poorest of the poor people among Him. He never let anyone get in His way of living His purpose. And now in reading today’s Gospel over and over again, I find it difficult to deny that He inherited some part of that radical lifestyle from His mama. She set the stage for what was about to come through her example for her Son and for us to radically trust in what God has planned.
The excitement of what Christmas brings can sometimes overshadow Mary’s unbelievable, inspiring, unwavering, and confident faith. Her yes appears to come with little hesitation, although there may be much written unknown to the human eye between those carefully crafted bible verses, especially amongst “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ “
We too are hand-maids and -maidens -- hand made -- of and by the Lord. Mary knew it (obviously) and lived it (again, obviously). She was, to bring it to the 21st century, living her best life, which is rooted in this day and this moment of saying yes. As we dive deeper into this Advent season and new liturgical year, let’s find what our own yes is and live it, without hesitation, following the example of our beloved Mother Mary and the best gift she could have given us.
What is your yes? How can you live your yes?
Are you living your best life? What does that look like?’
Kimberly VanBeek is a 20-something year old constantly in search for her purpose in life. She loves ultimate frisbee, Trader Joe’s, twinkly lights, and anything that kicks her in the feels. Kimberly currently is the Advancement Associate at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Milwaukee.