With God, Nothing is Impossible!
Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon on Sunday, December 18, 2005, the Fourth Sunday in Advent. The text is Luke 1:26-38.
This fourth Sunday in Advent is not really so much about Mary as it is about God. Gabriel announces it well, “for nothing will be impossible with God.”
You and I know all the reasons why Mary should not have been selected to be the Mother of God. She was too young, she wasn’t married, she was poor, and she wasn’t educated. Anyone with an understanding of public relations knows that the best candidate for being the Mother of God would be a woman of noble birth, one who was educated and sophisticated, one whose reputation was above question, one whose connection to a man through marriage would be her most valuable asset.
Today you and I are invited into God’s realm and asked to consider what it would be like to trust God so much, that we would believe in God’s promises, even when our common sense says “there is no way that this could be true!”
There are other women in scripture that were promised a miraculous birth. The angel told Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son when Sarah was 90 years of age. The Lord revealed to Hannah that she and her aged husband Elkanah would conceive Samuel. And Gabriel revealed to Mary that her kinswoman Elizabeth had conceived a baby with her husband Zechariah, even though she was barren.
There is something different about Mary’s promise. This is the confession of our church and the gospels of Matthew and Luke. The conception of Jesus did not involve an earthly father, as did the other miraculous conceptions. It was the Holy Spirit that impregnated Mary with God’s Son.
If you try to figure out how this happened, it will drive you crazy. Your logical mind will say, “no way.” Importantly, the Bible does not give us the details of how this happened. So we accept it as a mystery and a miracle. If God could create the entire universe with simply words, could he not defy his own laws of nature to do something he wanted to have happen?
In speaking to the congregation at Wittenberg, Martin Luther said that the greatest miracle for him was not that God chose Mary, but that Mary believed that God had chosen her. Essentially a child, poor, not well educated, terrified, and yet she believes that God has chosen and wants her for a special task. And she finds that it is not easy – from the first folks doubt that she is a virgin, even Joseph wants to know “how this happened” and is willing to “divorce her.”
I don’t for one moment believe that Mary composed the wonderful words of praise to God that we call the magnificat. But I have no doubt that those words faithfully describe her feelings upon being chosen to be the Mother of God:
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
For he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call be blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud
in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble,
he has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers. (Luke l:46f)
Mary presents an excellent example to us today of one that trusts in God and wants to be used for God’s purposes. How often do we doubt the big thing God might do because of some little fact about ourselves, about our condition, about our situation?
Moses said he surely couldn’t lead God people because he had some sort of speech impediment. God chose him anyway. Gideon said he he could not lead an army into battle because his clan was the weakest of the tribe and he himself was the weakest man in his clan. God chose him anyway.
Usually on this last Sunday before Christmas, we preachers concentrate on God’s love and God’s gift. We don’t often remember to lift up the theme of God’s power. We are tempted to save that until Jesus ministry and resurrection. But the angel’s parting words to Mary after he announces the coming birth of Jesus, is really a display of God’s power. His power to fulfill his purpose in any situation and against all odds. We recognize it when he calms storms, heals lepers, and rises from the dead. Today, we should also see it in the Christmas picture of a barren old woman and a young, virgin girl both giving birth to special baby boys.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come. Amen!