“The angel said to her ‘Do not be afraid, Mary... 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.’” - Lk 1: 30, 37-38.

The other evening, we had a youth night for our 7th and 8th graders on the meaning of Advent, which led to a lot of questions being raised… What are we waiting for during Advent? Why does it matter that Jesus was born in a manger 2,000 years ago and why do we celebrate that? How did a virgin get pregnant? These young people are at an age where they’ve lost much of the belief in magic and mystery that they might have still clung to only a few years prior, along with the revelation that Santa wasn’t really climbing down chimneys and bringing them gifts. So, they’re not looking for simple, childish answers. And, as adults we’re not much different.

Some of the most staunchly defined and pivotal theologies of our Church are our Marian dogmas: that Mary was an ever-Virgin, that she was the Mother of God, and that she, herself, was immaculately conceived - the mystery we celebrate today. These are some of the most difficult mysteries to logically explain or understand and, frankly, some of the hardest things to believe. Partly because the idea of living “immaculately” or “without blame or fault or imperfection” as a human being is just so out of our realm of experience. Partly because we’ve become disenchanted as the hope we had in mystery and magic dwindled with our maturity into adulthood. But is real maturity in losing our sense of mystery, wonder, and awe, or in learning a new, deeper way to embrace them?

In my own life, I have struggled with comparing myself to Mary, believing that I had to strive to be just as “perfect” and “immaculate”, despite not being given the same graces Mary was. And that’s just it. God hasn’t given me the graces he gave Mary because I’m not called to be Mary. I’m not called to bear The Great I Am incarnate in my womb. I’m called to be the me God created me to be, with all of the graces and gifts and callings and struggles that God has uniquely given and continues to place before me. What I can do to imitate Mary’s example is to be as open as possible to saying “yes” to the invitations God offers me. And I can even ask Mary to help me to say “yes” more fully each day. I can lean into a deeper meaning of the word “immaculate” - the Hebrew “tamim”, meaning “whole, mature, and complete” as I allow my truest self to be more and more completely and immaculately revealed.

During this Advent season, what might God be inviting me to say “yes” to? What are some areas where I can be more willing and receptive, rather than willful and resistant to God’s grace? Where might I surrender my sense of attachment to what I know, and lean into mystery with a child-like (not childish) wonder and awe? What are some fears God might be inviting me to lay down in exchange for trust in the reality that “nothing is impossible for God”?

Jessica Gerhardt