In the musical “Man of La Mancha,” when Dulcinea asks Don Quixote what it means to “follow his quest,” he responds by singing “The Impossible Dream.” Mary, who awaited the birth of Jesus some 2,000 years ago just as we do this Advent, could have written the song. She certainly lived it.
Imagine how young Mary—probably no more than 15 or 16 years old—must have felt upon receiving the news that the impossible was about to take place within her, that she would give birth to the Savior. How could she tell her betrothed, Joseph? What would her family think? Who would believe her?
“Do not be afraid, Mary,” the angel says to her. “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:30, 37). We know the rest of the story. The impossible was indeed made possible, not only at the birth of Jesus, but in the many miracles he performed, and most of all at his Resurrection. If God could accomplish all this, imagine what God can do in your own life. Advent is the season for imagining what is possible, for dreaming new dreams, for hoping beyond hope.
But it is also the season when hope can be hardest to find, dreams hardest to believe. The days draw short, the nights are long and the air turns. Expenses may loom at a time when resources are scarce. Separation, grief, loneliness, and depression are no strangers to the season. Hope may be in short supply during this time. We need Mary’s inspiring example of courage and trust in the face of uncertainty more than ever.
Mary can’t guarantee us a smooth ride, however. Look at her own difficult journey: first, she had to travel to Bethlehem late in her pregnancy (Luke 2:1–6). Have you ever tried riding a donkey? Now imagine doing so nine month’s pregnant! Later, she had to flee to Egypt with Joseph and the baby when their lives were in danger (Matthew 2:13–23).
Nor can Mary promise us a season free of anxiety and worry. Imagine how she must have worried about what was ahead for her beloved child as his messianic destiny was revealed to her, first by shepherds who left her pondering the news in her heart (Luke 2:16–19), then at the Temple by the prophet Simeon, who spoke to her of the sorrowful times ahead: “A sword will pierce your soul too” (Luke 2:22–35).
What Mary can offer us is a remarkable and inspiring example of courage in the face of adversity, patience in the face of uncertainty, and hope beyond hope that the impossible is indeed possible.
Mary stood with her son as he was crucified (John 19:25–27); she stood with his fearful followers who huddled after his death (Acts 1:13–14). She knew that the story wasn’t over yet. And she was right.
Our story isn’t finished, either, no matter what challenges or wounds burden us this season. All things remain possible with God. This is the miracle of Advent. We can once again dream the impossible dream—and reach the unreachable star.