There’s a piece of garland on my mantle that doesn’t quite look like the rest. One side hanging down is luscious and full with lights while the other is sparse in its branches with the ribbon a bit crumpled. I also have a string of lights that keeps falling down so it’s more like the shape of a boot than a beautiful, twinkling border around the peephole to my kitchen. When I look at the uneven garland or hear the sound of my twinkle lights falling down once again, I get a little agitated.
You see, Christmas is my favorite time of year. Everything feels magical to me, until the small details don’t quite live up to my expectations.
When I notice those minute details, I can’t help but almost immediately feel a pang of guilt and think back to our dear sister Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus. I’m sure she had her small annoyances in life (though I feel confident they looked awfully different than uneven garland). But when we read about Mary, we read of a girl who had much more than small things not pan out as she expected. Mary was engaged to be married. Before her little visit by Gabriel, she and her family were probably excitedly making wedding plans. She likely imagined that she and Joseph would have children. That Joseph would spend his days working while she tended to the children. She would raise them to be warriors, workers, and homemakers and when she had faithfully completed her task of raising the children, she and Joseph would grow old together. Just a simple, normal existence our young friend probably imagined. What she didn’t dream of? An angel telling her she would become pregnant—out of wedlock—with a One coming to save the whole world. Who could imagine something like that?
But that’s just what Mary experienced. She must have been terrified. Terrified for what her life would look like, what others would think, what her betrothed would think! There are many ways she could have responded to that conversation. In anger, disrespect, or despair she could have replied to Gabriel. But she had only one question:
“How?” As soon as it was explained to her, she quietly submitted and accepted the Lord’s will for her life. “’I am the Lord’s slave,’ said Mary. ‘May it be done to me according to your word.’” (Luke 1:38)
Have you ever been caught off guard by something the Lord has asked of you? Have you ever had your picture perfect life plan derailed? Sometimes, we feel disappointed by the way He is asking us to live or the gifts he gives us that we do not necessarily regard as gifts. In those instances, we can scream and cry and stomp our feet in resistance, or we can quietly accept the Lord’s will for us. It will not always look perfect, but we can know that our lives are working according to His plan. Through Mary’s obedience and submission, we were all given a Savior. A sweet, beautiful, baby boy destined to save the world because one young Jewish girl was obedient to her calling. During this season, I’ll be sitting back with a cup of hot cider, staring at my boot shaped lights and uneven garland praying that God continues to shatter my “perfect” expectations for life so He can replace them with a more holy path.
Where is He leading your life, sweet sister? Will you follow Him?