January 3, 2024

Nothing is Impossible With God

Prayer for Understanding

Open our ears, O God, to hear the whispering voice of Your angels, who come to us with glad tidings. Open our hearts to know Your presence and Your direction. As Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant, May your word to me be fulfilled”, help us receive Your words humbly and obediently. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

There was a small boy who was writing a letter to God before Christmas. Like every little child, he was writing about the present he so badly wanted for Christmas. The boy writes: “I’ve been good for six months now.”

And then he pauses and crosses out “six months” and writes “three months.” He pauses again, crosses out “three months” and writes, “two weeks.” He pauses again and crosses that out too.

Finally, the little boy gets up from the table and goes over to the little nativity set in front of the Christmas tree. He picks up the figure of Mary and goes back to his writing and starts again. “Dear Jesus, if you ever want to see your mother again…!”

There are four Gospel books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Only Matthew and Luke recorded the story of the birth of Jesus. But there are actually three versions of the Christmas story: the Gospel according to Matthew, which contains Joseph’s dream, the Magi from the East and the gifts, and the star that guided the Magi to baby Jesus.

The Gospel according to Luke from which we hear about the angel’s visit to Mary, the shepherds in the fields, and the angels’ praise. Luke also tells us that there was no room in the inn.

And then there’s version three: the Christmas story according to Hallmark in which we get all the mixed stories including the wise men, the shepherds, a host of angels, the star, camels, lowing cattle, lambs, etc.

Because it’s a story of baby Jesus, our Savior, we tend to cast a rosy color around the story, and it’s easy to forget that Joseph and Mary were real people.

In our imagination, baby Jesus never cried or his poop didn’t smell; Mary looked more like a blushing young beautiful bride than someone who just had given birth in a smelly stable; and Joseph was calm, protective, and paternal.

Although it’s more touching and sentimental to imagine version three - the Hallmark version, this morning, we are going to look at the story from the Gospel of Luke. This passage is called “The Annunciation” because it is the announcement of the birth of Jesus to Mary.

Let’s start with the matter of engagement to understand the context. As we studied a few weeks ago, in the first-century Jewish custom, there were two stages to go through the marital process.

First, engagement was like a legal contract binding a man and a woman in every respect. To be engaged or pledged was to be married but without living together as yet. This engagement could be broken only by divorce.

That was followed by a second step considerably later, sometimes a year later, including the formal wedding ceremony which lasted for a week. After the wedding feast, the groom took his wife to his home. Today’s text took place between these two stages.

The story begins, “In the sixth month.” The sixth month of what? The sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John. Before today’s text is the story of Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah. The Angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to tell him about the birth of John the Baptist.

In this passage, we learn that six months later that same angel visits a very young woman in Nazareth. The young woman is a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph.

The angel Gabriel greets her, “Greetings, the favored one!” meaning, “You are enriched with grace from God."

Throughout history, there have been many different arguments concerning Mary and her role. Some have considered Mary very highly, as equal to a god. They have shrines and pictures of Mary at home and pray to her. They believe that Mary is sinless and the mediator for us with God.

Some regarded Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth, Queen and Ruler of the Universe, and Queen of the World. The Catechism of the Catholic Church even states that the Virgin Mary is the mother of the church and all its members, namely all Christians.

On the contrary, many protestant churches have almost ignored her. Her name is brought up during Christmas time but her story or character is many times devalued.

We should not regard her too highly but at the same time, we should not downplay her role in the story of God’s redemptive work. Indeed, Mary was the only person who was with Jesus when He was born and when He was crucified. And she nursed, carried, and taught Jesus when He was a baby and child. She was certainly highly favored by God and enriched with God’s grace.

Gabriel’s next statement, "The Lord is with you," is a statement of the mighty power of God being present and upon Mary. He will be the source of the great event about to happen and the security and protection in the difficult years ahead.

Then Gabriel throws the unthinkable, extraordinary, and never-heard-of news to Mary.

“And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.”

Her reaction could’ve been, “Me? What? Who?” She must have been shocked, scared, and clueless. For a few seconds, her brain almost quit, but maybe she tried to think. She realizes that it’s impossible biologically. So she asks, “But how? since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you; Therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God.”

And then, Gabriel tells her another shocking news. “Did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing is impossible with God.”

Most of the time we do not fully realize what God is capable of. The God we believe in is the Creator. He is Sovereign and Almighty.

He transcended the laws of nature and by the power of the Holy Spirit conceived and brought forth a son in the Jewish virgin. Why? Because God loves the world. God loves us. To save us, to save the world, He promised to send the Messiah. What God promises He provides and does it, and sometimes in surprising ways.

To Gabriel’s proclamation, Mary humbly says, “Yes, I see it all now. Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

Mary had a submissive heart. She was obedient to God's will. She left the timing and details up to God. She made herself available to Him and that is exactly what He wants of us.

Mary was an ordinary girl. An ordinary name, ordinary family and friends, ordinary hometown, and ordinary life. She was just like ‘one of us’. But God chose her to bear HIS Son. The task, the call could’ve been heavy and heartbreaking, but because of Immanuel, because God was with Mary, she was able to carry the task.

Just like God came to Mary, God comes to us, ordinary people, and invites us to be part of His work in the world.

The Good news is that God is not limited by the ordinary. God is not bound within that which men call the natural. But for His own purposes, He can act in a way men can only describe as supernatural, which we call, MIRACLE.

God choosing Mary was an ultimate expression of His grace. The power of her story is not how special she was, but how magnificent God’s grace truly was. God chose Mary and she said yes to His unexpected invitation.

Are you willing to be a Mary? When God calls, He always provides. He makes Himself available to you and He will provide all of your needs as you serve His eternal purposes. When God steps into our lives we should rejoice and trust that He will do as He has promised. It all starts with a “yes.”

Friends, “God coming to us” happened through an ordinary girl like Mary who humbly and obediently said ‘yes’. God calls us and invites us to be part of His work on earth.

Sometimes, the task seems impossible. We may see our mobility and health, our age, our personality, our ability, or whatever we are as a limit. But NOTHING is IMPOSSIBLE with God. He can do extraordinary things through ordinary people like us as long as we are willing and obedient.

Today is not the end of Advent. We are called to live as Advent people waiting for Jesus’ return always… until He comes again in glory. Until then we need to share the message of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love to people around us.

Today, who needs to hear the story of Mary, an ordinary young girl who bravely and faithfully said ‘yes’ to the invitation of God’s redemptive work? Share the story with the lonely, the downcast, and the hopeless. And proclaim to them, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD!

Let us pray.

Teach us obedience, Lord

In every part of our lives, Ears to hear your word, Hands to do your work, Feet to walk your path, A heart for all your people, A mouth to shout your praise, A childlike faith and humility that says “I am the Lord's servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” Amen