God Does the Impossible
A sermon based on Luke 1:26-38
Sunday, December 18, 2011 – Advent 4B
"That's impossible!" must have been a phrase Jesus grew accustomed to hearing. It's not possible for deadly diseases to disappear, for the lame to leap, for the blind to see. It's not possible for a human to walk on water or for five loaves of bread and two fish to satisfy five thousand people. It's not possible for the dead to come back to life.
But Jesus life was once characterized by the impossible. In fact, the very person of Jesus is the impossible. The fullness of the Deity—all of God—embodied in a human being seems as impossible as putting an elephant in a paper bag! Yet, God does the impossible. Nothing is impossible for him.
How do we know? Consider the news given to Mary. It seems unlikely, even impossible. But listen to what God promised as we read Luke 1:26-38…
26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." 34 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God." 38 "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
I. The Lord Saves His People from Their Sin
Stand in Mary's sandals. Imagine you're at home minding your own business, when suddenly the room is filled with a light so bright that it makes a thousand spotlights seem dim. You're blinded by the brilliance! And before you have time to wonder if this is some alien abduction the brilliant light speaks… and you know exactly what it is standing before you. It's an angel—a messenger of the Most High, the Holy God! And he says to you, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
Can you imagine standing there—sinner that you are— in the presence of the holy—a perfect sinless messenger of the perfect sinless God? No wonder Mary was greatly troubled! She wasn't worthy of a special visit from God's messenger. She wasn't holy or sinless in her thoughts and actions. She admitted as much in her song when she cried out, "My spirit rejoices in God my Savior." (Luke 1:47) She was a sinner who needed a Savior.
So can you imagine how exposed you would feel standing before the holy? Wondering how much the angel knows. Wondering what God has told him about you. Does he know what I said to my spouse this morning? Does he know that vindictive thought I had about my co-worker? Or about the seductive thought I had about my neighbor? Does he know where my every dollar has been wasted or how I've squandered the precious hours God that has given to me?
If an angel were appear to you or me tonight we'd be just as troubled as Mary, just as terrified as the shepherds, just as panicked as the disciples, because God's law has exposed our sin. Because we know that we don't deserve to be highly favored by God.
But the amazing thing is that instead of fearing, the news Gabriel brought gives us reason to be cheering… "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…"
Why don't we have to be afraid of a holy God? Because of Jesus, whose name means, "The Lord saves." And not just from not just from political enemies or physical suffering, but from even more. An angel explained to Joseph: "You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) Seem impossible? Mary thought so, but the angel told her, "Nothing is impossible with God."
Only through her Son, the virgin-born God-man, could this be possible. Born of God, not of man, he is true God. Born of Mary, a true human, he is true human. These are the necessary ingredients for our Savior. He had to be true man, so that he who wrote the law, could be under the law. He had to be true God so that he could do the otherwise impossible task of keeping it perfectly in our place, as "the holy one to be born." He had to be true man, so the immortal God who cannot die could do the impossible and die. And as true God, his death would be worth enough to pay for the sins of all mankind of all time.
It seems impossible that God would do all this, doesn't it? There's no reason for him to do it all! God didn't have to do any of it. He didn't need a Savior. When Gabriel told Mary, "Do not be afraid… you have found favor with God," the word translated "favor" is charis, the word we usually translate as "grace." "Do not be afraid… you have found [grace] with God," Why did God save his people from their sins? Not because they're worthy, but because his grace is so bottomless it seems impossible.
But perhaps what seems most impossible of this whole account is that God did these things for you and for me. He not only did the seemingly impossible work of saving his people from their sins, but he did the seemingly impossible work of establishing his kingdom forever. A kingdom that continues 2,000 years later. A kingdom that you and I are a part of!
II. The Lord Establishes His Kingdom Forever
I once read that Italy has had more than fifty different governments in the last one hundred years. The great Kingdom of Rome, the likes of which the world has never seen, only lasted for 244 years. The US is doing remarkably well to have had the same government for 235 years now! Kingdoms don't generally last that long. They rise… and they fall. But not Jesus' kingdom. Of the increase of his government, his ruling, his kingdom, there is no end! The New Testament Church has been around for not 200 years, but for 2,000 years. And it will last, not just 2,000 more years, not to the end of the world, but to eternity!
How do we know? Listen to the angels words… "He will be great and will 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."
Jesus' Kingdom is not something that can fall like an earthly government or nation because Jesus' Kingdom—his ruling—takes place in the hearts of believers. And this Kingdom—as impossible as it may seem—is established in you, 2,000 years after began, in the same way it was for Mary. God created faith in your heart through the Gospel. And that will last forever.
When Mary heard the good news she asked, "How will this be?" not as a question of unbelief, as if to say, "No way!" but in awe, mystified by God's grace and his plan for her. She expressed her faith and quiet trust in God's promises when she confessed, "I am the Lord's servant… May it be to me as you have said."
And you, friends, can have the same quiet trust in God and his ruling over all things as Mary…
Have you ever wondered, "Who am I that God should do all this for me? Who am I that he promises to work all things—even the struggles and problems of my life, the hurting relationships, the financial struggles, the failing health—He works it all for my good?!" It seems impossible, doesn't it? Almost too good to be true!
But nothing is impossible for God! If God can create life in the womb of a virgin, he can create life in your heart. He who was born of a virgin, has saved you from your sin. And he has established his Kingdom in you. And he has established his Kingdom for you. Nothing has stopped him for 2,000 years and his Kingdom and his good purposes for you will continue to last forever!
You and I may not always understand "How will this be?" We may at times be mystified by God's ways in our lives. But, nevertheless, we can put our trust in him just as Mary did.
He's already done the impossible of saving you from your sins and he's done the impossible task of working faith in your heart to believe in these impossible promises. You are highly-favored! You have found favor and grace with God. You are forgiven! The Lord is with you! And he will work all things for your good just as he promised.
And one day soon God will do the impossible again. He will raise all the dead. And he'll take those in his Kingdom into eternal glory. And "He will reign… forever; his kingdom will never end." "When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we'd first begun." And so, trusting in our God, who does the impossible, we too say to him with confidence, "I am the Lord's servant… May it be to me as you have said," in Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.