Nothing Will be Impossible With God: Fourth Sunday in Advent - Luke 1:26-38
"Nothing Will be Impossible With God" / Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / 4th Sunday in Advent 2014 / Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favoured one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name 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 father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Three more sleeps to Christmas Eve, four more sleeps to Christmas Day! The countdown of Advent is drawing to a close and the celebration of the light of Christ Jesus, the birth of Jesus, is about to dawn: Four candles are lit on the Advent Wreath to mark the time as it now speeds along.
This Advent we've heard how Christ Jesus road into Jerusalem upon a donkey at the start of Holy Week, coming to you because you could not come to Him; then moving backward in time - as we counted down - we heard how John the Baptizer proclaimed Jesus' imminent arrival and prepared the hearts of the children of Israel to hear Jesus' preaching and receive His gifts - how the Holy Spirit does this still for each of us; Then we took an Old Testament side-trip into the heart of Isaiah to hear about the job description of the Messiah (the Christ), and now from John the Baptizer we step back once more to the day when the Virgin Mary is told she will bear the Christ and His name shall be Jesus.
After today the stage will be set, the focus will be on this miracle of miracles, such a tiny thing - the birth of a child and yet so earth shattering - our eyes will be prepared to be fixed on the true Joy of the World, the bundle of Joy, fixed on Christ Jesus, on Christ Jesus for you - He who is your Joy and Hope both now in Advent, in Christmas, and all through the year, all through your life unto life everlasting. He will be your Joy when your bones are dead to the world and dry as dust.
I suppose today a virgin could bear a child - but not without the help of in vitro fertilization and an implanted embryo. You're looking at Lab coats and medical procedures and even still there would have to be male genetic material and an egg or there would be no embryo to implant in the uterus' wall. The idea that a virgin could conceive and bear a child minus the presence of male participation is impossible.
In the natural way, if a man was to impregnate a woman, she would no longer be a virgin. So here we have something remarkable and Mary knows it. She may be young but she isn't without understanding, clearly she knows the natural order of things - and while she's engaged to be married to Joseph, she is keeping herself for marriage. No man has known her sexually and it's the sexual intimacy between a man and a woman that produces babies; that's where babies come from, so she asks the angel Gabriel, this angel sent by God, the obvious question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” - she politely says "this is impossible - have mercy and help me out here - please explain, if you'd be so kind." And the angel answered Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
O those last words! "For nothing will be impossible with God.” Jesus is an impossible baby - but "nothing will be impossible with God." This virgin Mary would have known the workings of God in the Old Testament, she would have known how in the first book of Moses, in the book of Genesis, Abraham's son "Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife [Rebekah], because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived." Isaac and Rebekah's son Jacob when he was grown had a wife whose name was Rachel and this Rachel like her mother-in-law Rebekah was barren and "[Rachel] said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” wisely Jacob answered - 'it's not that easy,' he said “Am I in the place of God ...?" - and yet - "nothing will be impossible with God.” The book of Genesis tells us how "God remembered Rachel, and [how] God listened to [Rachel] and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son."
Now you hear this and you are tempted to say - they may not have been "Barren" they were just having a hard time conceiving - these women were in their child baring years. Ok then let's up the ante - how about a woman past her child baring years, how about a woman past menopause - I mean really past menopause. This virgin Mary would have known about how the LORD told Abraham that his wife Sarah would have a child, and when God told, "Abraham [this Abraham] fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” At first Sarah found this amusing too she laughed at the idea but her heart was changed and Scripture tells us that it was "By faith [that] Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who had promised." It was the LORD who promised, it was the LORD who asked Sarah as she stood in the door of her tent "Is anything too hard for the LORD?" Like the angel Gabriel says in today's Gospel reading "nothing will be impossible with God.” This family is in Jesus' genealogy, God along the way was keeping His Promise to Adam and Eve even when it looked for all the world to be impossible. As the angel Gabriel tells Mary about her old relative Elizabeth conceiving in Elizabeth's old age she would be reminded of Sarah conceiving in her old age and how Sarah gave birth to Isaac.
(By the way, when this same angel Gabriel came to Elizabeth's husband, to tell him the glad news of the coming of John, Zechariah Elizabeth's husband was not so respectful towards Gabriel so Zechariah was struck mute by the angel, unable to speak until Elizabeth gave birth to John and John was about to be circumcised. This John is the John who'd grow up to be John the Baptizer.)
So in the midst of all of this, here's the catch, and most likely the reason the virgin Mary asks the question she asks; this virgin Mary - like I said - knows where babies come from and in all the cases mentioned, even in old Elizabeth and very old Sarah's cases, they came in the natural way, which is to say they came from the intimate actions of a husband and wife together which conceived a child. It required both the man and the woman to produce their miracle babies and Mary was a virgin so she asks her very reasonable question and when she asks she didn't laugh at the angel Gabriel as Sarah and Abraham had laughed at God when God told them of the coming birth of Isaac. She was not struck mute until the day of Jesus' circumcision as Zechariah had been with John. She responded with words of faith, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
The world tempts us at every turn to disbelieve this, to disbelieve that God is Omni-potent, that God is all powerful, that "nothing will be impossible with God.” The world tempts us to think that God could not create all things, that God could not part the Red Sea, or open barren wombs, or make the dead alive, forgive the sins of men, the sins that bring forth death. This virgin Mary would have known how in the Old Testament there was a prophet named Ezekiel, she would have known how Ezekiel said, "The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And [the LORD] led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” - "nothing will be impossible with God.” Ezekiel "answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” This virgin Mary would have known how [God] then said to [Ezekiel], “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
This virgin Mary would have known how Ezekiel continued to say, "So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then [the LORD] said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as [God] commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Then [the LORD] said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”
The virgin Mary carries in her womb the baby who made this come to pass, who will make this come to pass, the child who will grow to be the man who takes death to the grave and leaves death in the tomb, the man who is the resurrection of the Dead, who promises eternal life, who gives eternal life. This virgin carries in her womb the impossible child who will grow to do the impossible - He will die and He will be risen from the dead, Jesus will lay down His life and pick it back up, and He will not do this for His own good, Jesus does this for you. In Holy Baptism your dry bones of death are washed with the water of life and you now have your life in Jesus. On the last day the cry will go out, “Son of man, can these bones live?” and the answer will be: Yes, "For nothing will be impossible with God.” God bring life where there is no life, He bring light in the darkness, Jesus forgives your sins and you are forgiven. Forgiven even when you doubt how God could do such impossible things.
This forgiveness is for you and for all people for everyone who has doubts that Jesus is great, or that Jesus is the Son of the Most High, that the Lord God has given to Jesus the throne of King David, Forgiveness for those who disbelieve that Jesus will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and that His kingdom will be an everlasting one. Have no fear then in telling others the Good News of Jesus this Advent, this Christmas - whether they are Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Jew, Atheist or Agnostic, whoever they are, they can receive the gift of faith in Christ Jesus and be forgiven for their former doubts about the impossible baby Jesus and God's gifts of life, salvation and forgiveness that Jesus bring, "For nothing will be impossible with God,” and remember it is God who changes hearts, who implants faith and makes it grow. He has done this for me, He does this for you, He will do this for others. Therefore go with a glad and forgiven heart and wish a Merry Christmas to everyone you meet, for Christ Jesus merrily comes to you as He comes for all people with His grace, His Mercy and His Steadfast Love. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Genesis 25:21
 Genesis 30:1
 Genesis 30:2
 Genesis 30:22-24
 Genesis 17:17
 Genesis 18:1-15, "And the LORD appeared to [Abraham] by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favour in Your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash Your feet, and rest Yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that You may refresh Yourselves, and after that You may pass on—since You have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” The LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”
 Hebrews 11:11
 Genesis 18:14
 Genesis 3:15
 Luke 1:5-25, "In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
 Luke 1:57-66, "Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbours. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him."
 Ezekiel 37:1-3
 Ezekiel 37:3-14
 Acts 2:24, "God raised [Jesus] up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it."
 John 10:17-18, [Jesus says,] "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”