4th Sunday in Advent
December 20, 2020
“Nothing is Impossible With God”
Love, joy, peace, and hope be and abide with you all in the name of our Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon is the Gospel lesson from Luke 1.
My dear friends,
Christmas is getting so close now…so close! Bring on the Christmas tree and break out the presents. But not so fast…back up the truck, Karen. Christmas is a 12-day feast beginning December 25, and we need to pace ourselves. WE still have a few days to wait, so cool your jets. “Slow your roll,” as the cool kids would say. It isn’t Christmas just yet. Our worship today is kind of a prelude to Christmas. A virgin girl conceives, and the Son she carries in her womb is the Son of the Most High God. Wait…a virgin, you said? Impossible, you say? I don’t think so. Nothing is impossible with God.
St. Luke is a good historian. Having been commissioned by Theophilus, Luke documented and wrote what we know as his Gospel and the book of Acts. Luke writes that the birth of Immanuel – God with us – happened at a specific time and place in history. This is no legend of the “divine child,” no myth of things long ago in a galaxy far, far away. It happened in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. You remember Elizabeth—old enough to be your grandmother, now pregnant out to here with a little boy soon to be named John. John the Baptist’s mom was old enough to be my grandma? Whoa! Just goes to show you… nothing is impossible with God.
Perhaps it will spin your head, but I’ll risk your dizziness It’s the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. In nine more months, Jesus will be born, and 40 days after his birth, Mary and Joseph will bring him to the temple for the first time. If you add all these months and days up, it comes to 490 days or 70 weeks from the time that Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the temple to the time Jesus made his first appearance in the temple. That’s precisely the timetable the angel Gabriel gave the prophet Daniel in Daniel 9 hundreds of years before. “Seventy sevens (weeks) are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to stone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophesy and to anoint the most holy.” Impossible, you say? No, nothing is impossible with God.
The place is Nazareth in Galilee, a no-place in the no-place of the land of Zebulun. Seriously, did you even know that one of Israel’s sons was named “Zebulun”? Nazareth is never mentioned in the Old Testament. It’s not the place you’d expect a respectable messiah, or even his mother, to come from. The people of Judea despised Nazareth. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael once snorted. You bet it can. Nothing is impossible with God.
The angel Gabriel came to Nazareth in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy to pay a visit on a young girl named Mary, who was picking out invitations for her wedding day or whatever brides-to-be do. “Hail, O favored one,” the angel said. “The Lord is with you.” The angel explained. “You’ve found favor with God. You’re going to conceive and give birth to a Son and give him the name Jesus. He will be great and be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
In other words, Mary, you’ll become pregnant before your wedding day, and everyone’s going t know. Joseph is going to want to dump you. Yet, the baby is God’s Son. Not only that, but he’s the fulfillment of every promise God has ever made—from the Promised Seed of the woman (Gen 3:15) to the promised successor to David (2 Sam 7:16) to the virgin who conceives and bears “Immanuel” (Is 7:14). A virgin mother? An eternal King? The Son of the Most High God in human flesh? What?! Impossible! But with God, nothing is impossible.
“How will this happen, since I’m a virgin?” Mary asks. Good question. Virgins don’t conceive, as a rule. Our sexually cynical world laughs or even dismisses Mary’s virginity. That’s impossible. We’re too scientific, too sophisticated, too street-smart to believe a tall tale like that. We may even squirm a bit in our pews. But friends, this is at the very heart of what we believe, that Jesus is true God, begotten of his Father from eternity and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary. This is the sinless Son of God become human. He is like us in every way, embracing every aspect of our humanity, from the cradle to the grave, from the womb to the tomb. That’s the kind of Savior He is; that’s the kind of Savior we need. All this hinges on Mary’s virginity – an article of faith – because nothing is impossible with God.
And perhaps that’s a message you need now more than ever. A virus-weary world waits for a vaccine. As a nation, we’re ready for some peace on earth and goodwill to men after the brutality of the summer of 2020 with violent anarchy in our streets. Maybe you’re waiting on resolution of your own impossibility: something’s wrong in your home, with your health, with your finances, or you’re your whole, stinkin’ life. Right now we need to know that nothing is impossible with God. A virgin can give birth. A death on a cross can bring life. An ascended Lord will return. No, not every difficulty of 2020 will be resolved by Christmas 2020, but we are encouraged and strengthened in knowing for sure that nothing is impossible with God.
Don’t let your cynical brain deadened by years of sin taint what you see and feel in your heart. Trust God’s Word. Our eyes see a splash of water, a preacher, a bit of bread and a little wine. But the Word speaks what we cannot see. That water is Baptism, a life-giving water full of grace, a water of rebirth and renewal. That preacher speaks real forgiveness, Christ’s forgiveness. That bread is the body of Jesus, conceived and born of Mary, given into death on the cross. That wine is his blood, poured out for you. A virgin conceives the Son of God. Sinners the likes of you and me are forgiven in Jesus. The dead are raised in Jesus. The Lord is with you even in 2020.
It’s like I said…nothing is impossible with God. May that promise keep you for the remainder of this year and every year yet to come.