Nothing is impossible with God!

Luke 1:26-38

 

Welcome

Nothing is impossible with God! That’s what the angel told Mary, and it’s what we’re talking about on this Christmas eve.

ILL: On Wednesday, my 4 year-old granddaughter Jenna dropped her Thomas the Train plate and it broke. She dissolved into tears and was inconsolable. Finally Nana said that maybe I could glue it. Jenna brightened up and said, “Grandpa can fix it, Nana. Grandpa can do anything.” Yeah! When I heard that this morning, guess what I did? I fixed the Thomas the Train plate—super-glued it good as new! You can’t let that kind of faith go unrewarded!

Grandpa can do anything! I wish that was true. I can’t…but God can!

The angel told Mary that she would have a baby without a man—impossible! And her baby would be the Son of God. God was going to come to earth as a human being, as a baby—impossible!

Nothing is impossible with God. Those are the words the angel Gabriel said to Mary when announcing that she would give birth to the long-awaited Messiah. And those are God’s words to us this Christmas season. Most of us, like the folks in the video, have an impossibility we’re facing. Have you invited God into your impossibility? Nothing is impossible with God!

In the Christmas story, the angel Gabriel greeted Mary and told her that she had found favor with God.

Luke 1:31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.

He then described Jesus in the loftiest terms:

Luke 1:32-33 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.”

So the angel’s message was, “You are going to have a baby who will be the Son of God whose kingdom will never end.” In response, Mary asked a very reasonable question.

Luke 1:34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

How will this be?” Seems reasonable! Perhaps Mary wanted to know if Joseph was included in this plan. “Who will the father be?”

Luke 1:35 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.

God will be the Father of this baby, not through any sexual union, but simply by God’s power, a new life would be planted in Mary’s womb. And this new life would be the Son of God.

This part of the story—the virgin birth—has been met with skepticism all through history. A lot of people find it unbelievable and understandably so. Why? A virgin birth is impossible. We all know where babies come from, right? A virgin birth is impossible!

If you find the virgin birth unbelievable, you’re not the first one. Mary did too! Mary knew it was impossible! She knew where babies came from. She must have been as skeptical as anyone because the angel has to assure her that nothing is impossible with God. Mary must have been thinking, “This is impossible”, so Gabriel gives her an example of God doing what people thought impossible: her ancient aunt Elizabeth was now six months pregnant! “Aunt Lizzie pregnant? Impossible!” Then the angel added, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

“Believe it sister! You—a virgin—are going to have a baby who will be the Son of God. Impossible? Nothing is impossible with God.”

Do I believe in the virgin birth? Yes. Why? Because I believe in God and nothing is impossible with God!

Do I believe in the incarnation, that God became a man in Christ? Yes. Why? Because I believe in God and nothing is impossible with God!

The Christmas story is a story of God doing the impossible…for nothing is impossible with God.

There is a back-story here. This phrase, “nothing is impossible with God” was a Hebrew saying—like a proverb—like, “Grandpa can do anything.” It goes all the way back to the first book in the Bible. God had promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have a baby, but years passed and they never got pregnant. Then when Sarah was 89 years old and Abe was 99, the Lord told them, “At this time next year, Sarah will give birth.” Sarah laughed out loud, and God asked:

Genesis 18:14 “Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”

Is anything too hard for the Lord?” The Septuagint is the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. The Greek phrase here is almost the same as angel’s words to Mary. Is anything to hard for the Lord? Nothing is impossible with God.

Mary would have known the Sarah story, and she would have known this saying: nothing is impossible with God. She would have connected this saying with the impossibility of Sarah becoming pregnant, and she knew that God did it! It would have encouraged her to trust God to fulfill His word to her.

The saying shows up again in Jeremiah. The Babylonian army was besieging Jerusalem, and God had already told Jeremiah that they would capture the city and take the Israelites into captivity in Babylon. But God also promised that He would eventually bring the Israelites back home. And so God told Jeremiah to buy his uncle’s field and have the deed transferred before witnesses. It was an act of faith that God would fulfill His promise and bring them home—but it looked impossible. Then Jeremiah prayed:

Jeremiah 32:17 “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

There is the saying again: Nothing is too hard for God. And God answered:

Jeremiah 32: 27 “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”

God affirmed what Jeremiah said: nothing is too hard for God! Nothing is impossible with God!

Mary would have known these verses as well, and knew that, true to His word, God had brought the Israelites home from Babylon. God had done what He promised, even though it seemed impossible.

So the angel used this familiar saying to encourage Mary’s faith. God made an impossible promise to Mary, and then reminded her that nothing is impossible with God. This Christmas, God is speaking this word to us for the same reason, to encourage us to trust Him.

Jesus used a version of this saying.

Mark 10:27 “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

All things are possible with God. Jesus had just said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. The disciples were astonished. They believed that wealth was a sign of God’s favor. If the rich, who are God’s favorites can’t be saved, “Who then can be saved?” they asked. All things are possible with God—even saving people like us!

Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. All things are possible for God.

ILL: When my kids were little, at bedtime we’d tell a Bible story and pray with them. Sometimes we’d read the story and then act it out—everyone got a part. Then I would ask what they learned, what was the lesson from the story. Many of the stories about Jesus included something impossible—someone healed or raised from the dead or Jesus walking on water or feeding crowds with a sack lunch. When I asked what was the lesson, the kids would shout, “God can do anything!”

God can do anything! Nothing is impossible with God!

We had a song we sang with our kids; I think we still sing it in Adventureland. “My God is so great!” I think we ought to sing it now, and all the kids should stand and do the motions with me!

My God is so great, so strong and so mighty,

There’s nothing my God cannot do. (repeat)

The mountains are His, the rivers are His,

The stars are His handiwork too.

My God is so great, so strong and so mighty,

There’s nothing my God cannot do.

That’s a good Christmas song. There’s nothing my God cannot do. Nothing is impossible with God. God said it to Mary to encourage her to trust Him; God is saying it to us for the same reason. We are called to trust God in the face of the impossible; to trust God who can do the impossible.

At Christmas the impossible happened: a virgin had a baby. The baby was God. For nothing is impossible with God. That same God wants to have a relationship with you; He wants to work in your life. The reason Jesus came, the reason God became a man, was to bring you back to Himself. To reconnect you to God.

God became a man so that following a man—something you are able to do—you might reach God, which was formerly impossible to you.” St. Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 134:5.

 

It was impossible for you to reach God on your own. So God came to you. God made the impossible possible. God made a relationship with Him possible—that is why Jesus came. He wants to have a relationship with you. He wants you to trust Him. Nothing is impossible with God.

 

So I want to ask you two questions:

  • What promise are you waiting for God to fulfill?

  • Have you invited God into your impossibility?

What promise are you waiting for God to fulfill? Gabriel’s words to Mary—nothing is impossible with God—were designed to encourage her to trust God to do what He said. God had spoken, and God is always faithful to do what He says, even if it looks impossible. God always keeps His word!

I want to clarify something. When the Bible says nothing is impossible with God, this is not a promise that God will do everything we want; it is a reminder that God can do everything He promises. God can do anything, but He doesn’t do everything. He does what He wants, not necessarily what I want. He does what He says, not necessarily what I say. Faith is a response to God—it is believing what God says. It is not just believing whatever you want. It is believing what God says. God speaks, and we believe. Gabriel’s words—nothing is impossible with God—were to remind Mary that God can do whatever He says. In fact, the phrase “nothing is impossible with God” can also be translated:

For no word from God will ever fail.” NIV 2011

For the word of God will never fail.” NLT footnote

God will do what He says—no matter how impossible it seems. Do you have a promise from God? What promise are you waiting for God to fulfill? Hang on! Keep believing because nothing is impossible with God.

ILL: My dad was a wonderful man and a good father, but he was an alcoholic and far from God. When I was in high school, God promised me that my dad would become a Christian. So I prayed for him with confidence…for years…and nothing happened. I graduated from high school and left for college, and my dad alcoholism grew worse. I got married and had kids, and still no change. Over the years, I talked candidly with my dad—no response but defensiveness. Years passed and there was no discernible progress at all—if anything, he seemed to get harder. It seemed impossible.

Around Christmas one year, I was in Oregon visiting my parents who were by now divorced. As I drove the hour home to Mom’s from Dad’s, I was praying for my dad and was very frustrated. “Why haven’t you kept this promise?” I asked God. Just then, I drove by a tiny church on the highway. The name of the church jumped out at me: Sovereign Grace Church. And God said again, “I will save your dad—it will be an act of grace. Trust me.”

Not long after that—almost 25 years after the first promise—my dad called me at home one morning and told me that he had become a Christian. I’ll never forget it! I had waited 25 years, and for most of that time it seemed impossible—but nothing is impossible with God!

Do you have a promise from God? Hang on! Even in your darkest hour, even when it seems hopeless, keep believing, because nothing is impossible with God.

Second question:

 

Have you invited God into your impossibility? What if you are facing an impossibility and have no promise from God, no word from the Lord about that situation? We all have those. I have difficult situations that I don’t have a promise for. Why don’t you invite God into your impossibility and see what He does! When we work, we work; when we pray, God works. So pray! Invite God into your impossibility! I can’t promise you what God will do. He may do something impossible; He may give you the strength to navigate that impossibility. But you won’t know what God will do until you ask, until you invite Him into your impossibility. So pray! Ask God to help you! Nothing is impossible with God!

ILL: Just before Christmas in 2007, a recently-disabled single mom attended a morning worship service. As the offering was being received, she placed five dollars—all the money in her purse—in the tray. Her mother, who was not yet a believer, cautioned her to not give away what little money she had. But the young woman said that she felt compelled to place all of her trust in the God who had given His only Son for her.

After church, the pastor learned that a couple in the church had brought Christmas gifts for the single mom and her son. The pastor had the gifts transferred from the couple (who insisted on remaining anonymous) to the young woman’s car. Among the gifts, there was also an envelope.

Riding home from church with her daughter, the grandmother opened the envelope and discovered that it contained $500. She started crying and she said to her daughter, “I never knew that the God you serve could do something this great!” In just over an hour, the Lord had given this single mom a hundredfold return on the $5 she had put in the offering. Grandma gave her heart to the Lord on the spot! Now she is a walking billboard for Jesus!

This single mom invited God into her impossibility and He showed up in a big way! Have you invited God into your impossibility? When we pray, God works!

But God doesn’t always work the way we hoped for. Let me show you what I mean. This saying shows up once more. It is on the lips of Jesus when He is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane just before He died.

Mark 14:36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Everything is possible for you, Father. Jesus asked God to “take this cup” from Him, to spare Him from the agony of the cross that lay ahead. Jesus knew that nothing was impossible with God. His Father could save Him from the cross and find another way to save the world, and He asked God to do it. But God didn’t save Him. Jesus suffered and died on the cross. But then…God raised Him from the dead! Nothing is impossible with God. Jesus invited God into His impossibility and trusted God to work. It wasn’t what He asked for, but God worked! In fact, God did His greatest work in Christ’s death and resurrection.

Colossians 1:19–20 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

The fullness of God dwelt in Christ—God became a man—and through Christ’s death, God reconciled all things to Himself. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, God saved us…and everything else. God’s work in Christ is bigger than anything you can imagine!

Yet in that moment in the Garden of Gethsemane, God didn’t answer Jesus’ prayer the way He wanted. He didn’t “take this cup” from Jesus. But He did work!

Sometimes in our darkest hour, we pray and invite God into our impossibility and it seems like nothing happens. Where is God? God is still working in the dark, even when you can’t see it. God is working—but He doesn’t always do what we want.

ILL: Pastor Craig Barnes shared this story in his Christmas sermon last year.

[My father] left us when I was sixteen, and once he left, he never stopped running. Every time we tried to find him, he would only leave and disappear again. He died alone in a raggedy trailer park somewhere in the middle of Florida. A neighboring pastor, who did not know him, spent two days trying to find his family even though he did not know our names.

My Dad missed all of the important events in his sons’ lives: graduations, weddings, birth of children, our two ordinations, and both of our Ph.D. ceremonies. He missed all of it. I prayed and prayed that he would return to us. I used to yearn for the day that he would show up in a congregation where I was preaching. My longing was for him to come through the line at the end of worship, take my hand and say, “Good job, son.” But he never came.

At his funeral, I stared at the casket and wondered what happened to all of those prayers for him. Were they just lying around on the floor of heaven? (Can you relate to this?)

When the service was over, my brother and I went to his little trailer in hopes of piecing together something about his life. That was when we received the great Christmas gift. Sitting on his kitchen table was a devotional journal in which he had written his prayers and thoughts about various Bible passages. I was relieved to discover that he did not also abandon his faith. But then I came across a dog-eared, tattered page with the title “Daily Prayer List” at the top. The first two items on that list were my brother’s name and my name.

I will never understand the lonely madness that drove my father away from everyone who loved him. But I am so thankful to know that to his dying day, he never forgot us. He talked to God about us, even though for some reason he could not talk to us. There was enough grace in that to get me through.

The grace was not that I received what I wanted. I did not find my father in time. The grace was that Jesus never lost him. And for me, the grace was that I then realized, through all of those years of praying for my dad, I was speaking with my Heavenly Father, who will never leave me or forsake me.

Craig Barnes, from the sermon “The Hopes and Fears of All the Years,” (12-5-10)

Have you invited God into your impossibility, into the middle of your darkest situation? When we pray, God works. When you pray about it, God may do a miracle in your situation—or He may do a miracle in you. But God will work. Nothing is impossible with God.