Is Impossible With God
he title of this sermon is from the words of Maryís encounter with the angel Gabriel who had announced that she had been favored above all others to become the mother of the divine Son of God. Of the four New Testament biographies of Jesus Christ, only Lukeís gospel contains the angelic annunciations to Mary, Elisabeth, Zacharias, and to Joseph. It is thought that Luke must have interviewed Mary in his effort to compile a history of the life of Christ. As a physician he was trained to logically trace the course of events and to report them accurately. The call to Mary is one of the most beautiful stories in the entire Bible.
In reflecting upon her story we need to remember that she was not a mindless pawn in Godís hands. Mary could have refused to become the mother of Godís Son. Just as do we, she had the freedom to say no to Godís calling upon her life. But one of the main elements in her story is that she chose to allow God to use her as an instrument of His perfect plan for the redemption of humanity. We all face similar choices. Finding Godís plan for our lives is the formula for fulfillment.
Mary was one of us. Sometimes we try to make her into a goddess, but really she was just a typical young girl much like many that we have known in our homes, our schools, communities and churches. We can call their names, we can see their innocent and pure faces. Within every young girl lies similar potential as that which accompanied Maryís life.
As a father, I witnessed the births of two perfect examples of womanhood. I was a part of their growing up. Our little family pulled a pop-up camper through the great 48, bonding through our eight long summers of camping. I was there on their first day of kindergarten, and I was at their college graduations. It has been one of the great joys of my life to be the father of two daughters. Mary was a young woman much like the ones we have known and loved.
It just so happened that Mary met all of Godís qualifications for pulling together his plan of redemption. She was a virgin and she was engaged to a wonderful man who would become a great father for Jesus. She lived in the chosen city of Nazareth. She was a Jew and had studied the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. She was also the relative of the older couple, Elizabeth and Zechariah, who had been selected to become the parents of John the Baptist. Out of the many young women in Nazareth on that day, God chose her because she was just right for the fulfillment of his plan.
She was afraid at first. Many of us could share similar stories of awe and fear when we initially felt God calling us.
A young woman shared with me this week how she had been a secular yuppie, but somehow God began to speak to her through events and situations and gradually she found herself in the strange surroundings of a church. Gradually she felt more comfortable with the hymns, creeds and prayers that everyone else seemed to have memorized. Soon she was immersed in Bible reading and study. Not too many months later she knew that she should join the church by baptism. Soon after that she was asked to work as an assistant Sunday School teacher for sixth graders. Gradually, gradually, God was calling her to a fuller life, to a deeper commitment. Today she finds herself playing the role of what used to be called, ďA Pillar of the Church.Ē She really does not know how she arrived from where she was to where she is, but it was gradually and by the grace of God. It was the same grace that called out to young Mary in Nazareth two millenniums ago. God has a purpose for all of us. Standing where we are we can not see the future, but gradually it comes to us, and soon we look back filled with wonder as we see what grace has done with us. These must have been feelings that Mary shared with Dr. Luke as he heard her story.
God would have known that Mary would be willing to submit to his plan. Theology tells us that God has foreknowledge of our choices, but that His prior knowledge does not interfere with our free will decisions. We are not even told if Mary was his first choice. It is possible that other qualified girls in Nazareth might have refused. But we do not know that for sure. We are told that she was afraid at first, but by the time she arrived at Zechariah and Elizabethís home she was full of great joy and sang a beautiful song of praise: ďMy soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.Ē (Luke 1: 47-50 NRSV).
Note that in the last sentence she was including us. All these long years later, you and I are the selected ones to be given the choice to experience Godís mercy through his Son, ďfrom generation to generation.Ē Just as Mary was standing on tiptoe with a fresh calling from God, we too can get that excited about His plan for our lives. God has a fantastic plan for each of us. We too face the choice whether to follow where He leads, or to go it alone.
I clearly remember as a boy wondering what would happen with my little life. Like many boys I wanted to be a cowboy when I grew up. I was a Hoppalong Cassidy fan and still treasure a Hoppy Fan Club pocket knife. Later I wanted to be a tugboat captain because of the influence of an early television series. I bought a captainís cap and wore it around the house, but now I canít even recall the name of the show, or my admired tugboat captain. But then in college God called to me one rainy Sunday afternoon in my college dorm room. Although I was then toying with the idea of becoming an Optometrist, I knew on that day that God was calling me to be a preacher. I said yes and have never looked back. Looking back I must feel as Mary felt on that day she gave an interview to young doctor Luke.
This Christmas Season, filled with wonder, would be a wonderful time for you to wonder as you wander out under the sky. Marvel, mystery and miracles is the stuff that Christmas is made of. God might be calling you into a new adventure of grace.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor