Nothing Is Impossible for God!
As we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth,
we can take a close look at his humble beginnings.
How many aspects of it would have seemed impossible, yet they were not!
2 Samuel 7:1–5, 8b–12, 14a, 16
When King David was settled in his palace, and the Lord had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.” But that night the Lord spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Should you build me a house to dwell in?
“‘It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord
also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.’”
For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters: To him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “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, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Understanding the Word
In the time of David, it was customary for a king to honor his patron god by building a temple, thus David’s resolve to build a “house” for the God who gave him his throne. But the God of Israel does not want things done the usual way and instead promises to build for David an everlasting “house,” or dynasty. This passage, then, is the founding story of the Davidic dynasty, the chosen monarchy of the God of Israel. Although the monarchy came to an end four hundred years later at the time of the Exile, this promise remained “on the books,” and was revived many years later in conjunction with the rise of Jewish messianic expectations under the Greeks and Romans.
Paul ends his Letter to the Romans with a doxology to the faithful, righteous God who has made possible justification and salvation for all in Christ. Throughout the letter Paul has proclaimed and explained “his” gospel, which is the proclamation of Jesus Christ himself. In Christ has been revealed the “mystery kept secret for long ages,” namely that the promises made to Israel long ago would also be made available to “all nations” through the “obedience of faith,” that is, belief and trust in God’s justifying action in Christ. It is for this reason that this eternally faithful and wise God should be given praise through that same Christ.
Gabriel has come to Mary to announce that a long-standing, slowly unfolding divine plan for the whole world is reaching its climax. References to David point toward the divine election of the Davidic monarchy and God’s promise to uphold it “forever,” a promise on pause since the Exile, but now revealed to come to pass in the Son to be born to Mary. Naturally enough she is bewildered, unable to fathom how this is possible. Gabriel’s explanation, along with his announcement that the aged and barren Elizabeth will also give birth, drives home a key point of all the scriptures, which is that “nothing will be impossible for God.”
Reflecting on the Word
If you surveyed the people in Henry Ford’s day about what they hoped for in transportation, they would have said, “Breed a faster horse.” If you surveyed the Jews before the time of Jesus about what they wanted in a Messiah, they would have said, “A powerful king to drive out the Romans.”
Yet the future doesn’t always arise directly from the paths of the past. The Ruler of the universe seems to delight in making sudden turns, knocking human expectations sideways. The shepherd boy David is the smallest among his tall and handsome brothers, yet he is the one whose house is to last forever. An obscure girl in the hillbilly region of Galilee says yes to God, and a baby as tiny as a pinhead grows in her womb as the Savior of the world. How can this be?
The angel Gabriel says, “Nothing will be impossible for God.” Hear that again: Nothing will be impossible for God. Nothing. What if you and I gave our total yes to that statement? What if that conviction sank into our core? “Nothing is impossible for God!” There would be no region of our existence that the grace of Christ could not redeem. We would not limp through life with limited expectations. We would never stop seeking for the surprises of the Spirit. If nothing were impossible for God, we would never give up! We would not lose hope in people or institutions. We would never give up on ourselves or our circumstances. Even when things got hard, we would not quit. We would march forth with courage, believing that nothing is impossible for God.
As Christmas preparations intensify, can we do that? Holy Spirit, make sure our conviction that nothing, nothing, nothing is impossible for God!
- Is there someone whom you feel like giving up on? Circumstances that cause you to feel despair? What institutions feel hopeless? If nothing is impossible for God, how might you flip that perception around to see it in a new way?
- When has the Spirit done the unexpected in the history of your life? What difference did that make? Share that story of God’s unexpected grace with someone this Christmas.
Living and Praying with the Word
Holy Spirit, you are the source of courage. The early Christians trained for martyrdom by repeating, “Nothing is impossible for God!” In these few days left before Christmas, strengthen us for all that we have to do, holding fast to that belief in the miraculous. The Son is coming. All will be well. Glory to God in the Highest!