by Dr. Dwight Gunter
Sermon Text: Luke 1:26-38
Lectionary Texts: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44
I sat in my office that day leaning back in my chair and staring at the ceiling of an old, old building, trying to see through it into the very throne room of God. I was desperate. How could a church that only raised $22,695 for the year buy land, relocate, build a building, and expand ministry? Impossible! No way! Won't happen!
His wife attended our church, but he didn't, and wasn't going to . . . too much going on and too much bondage in his life. We met at a Sunday School party and made plans to go play golf. At the end of the round of golf, while driving back home, he spoke to me of his drug use. He knew he needed to be in church for the sake of his wife and new son, but he couldn't quit. Impossible! No way! Won't happen!
She was kneeling at the altar at the close of the message, pouring her heart out to God and to the friend from work who had first invited her to church. She wanted to be a Christian. She desperately wanted to be in right relationship with God and experience eternal life. But, she knew her husband would never have anything to do with church. She knew he would never enter into a right relationship with Jesus. She knew if she accepted Christ she would do it and live it alone. She wasn't even sure she wanted to live forever without the husband she passionately loved. She knew he would not come to Christ. Impossible! No way! Won't happen!
I sat with him in the funeral director's office as I assisted him and his brother plan their father's funeral. He asked me if I would give an opportunity for people to accept Christ during the message. I said I would if he wanted me to. He did; I did. He accepted Christ. He and his wife started coming to church. One day they came by to see me and she began to explain she was an atheist. They had been living together for 10 years and had not been married. They both wanted to be, but now he wanted her to be a Christian. That wasn't in her plans. She didn't believe and she wouldn't believe. Impossible! No way! Won't happen!
Have you ever struggled with the impossible? Have you ever looked at situations in your life and said, "Impossible! No way! Won't happen!"?
Luke 1:26-38 is a story about the impossible. It is a story about the "no way" and the "won't happen." It is the story of the angel's announcement to Mary. When I say to you it is a story of impossibilities, I'm serious. There are several basic impossibilities in this story.
A pregnant virgin having a child and remaining a virgin. Impossible! No way!
Joseph following through on the marriage when he discovers she is pregnant. Impossible! No way! Won't happen!
Avoiding death when the neighbors hear the news. Impossible! No way! Won't happen!
To conceive and birth a child in her old age. Why, it is so impossible the news left old Zechariah speechless. Impossible! No way! Won't happen!
This is a story of biblical impossibilities. But, what are the impossibilities in our world? What would you label "impossible" in your life? Peace in our world. Impossible! No way! Won't happen! Christian values returning to our nation, morality becoming the norm? Impossible! Our church reaching our surrounding community and making our world different? Impossible! Restoring relationships, healing past hurts in our lives; a relative or friend entering a relationship with Christ; breaking an addiction and overcoming past hurts and disappointments? Impossible!
We find ourselves with the same troubled mind as Mary, wondering over the impossible (v. 29). We even ask the same question Mary asked, "How will this be?" (v. 34).
How can the situation be resolved?
How can the relationship be restored?
How can I overcome my past?
How can I break the bondage in my life?
How can I find healing emotionally?
How can I be healed physically?
How can he/she ever come to the place of accepting Christ?
Impossible! No way! Won't happen! The question we're really asking is "How can the impossible become possible?"
The key is found in the language, in the word. This whole story is dripping with words and images of power:
Great (v. 32),
Most High (v. 32),
Lord God (v. 32),
throne of his father David (v. 32),
reign (v. 33),
kingdom (v. 33),
never end (v. 33),
power of the Most High (v. 35),
and Son of God (v. 35).
Even in verse 28 the greeting of the angel, "the Lord is with you," is tied to Immanuel (Hebrew) from Isaiah (which was given in a power context). Powerful words flow through this situation.
And, it doesn't stop there. Mary goes to see Elizabeth. As soon as Mary greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth's baby leaped within her. When she told Mary what happened Mary began to sing (what is known as the Magnificat, or the glories).
Look at the power phrases and images:
He has power enough to overcome (vv. 49, 51, 52).
He has power enough to be pure (v. 49).
He has power enough to be compassionate (vv. 52-55).
How can the impossible become possible? How will this be? Zoom in on Luke 1:35. "The power of the Most High" (the immediate force of the Godhead delivered by the Holy Spirit) will "overshadow" (envelop in a haze of brilliancy--the image of a cloud coming upon her). The image may even be linked to the cloud in Exodus 40:38, representing the presence and power of God. It reminds me of how God's Spirit hovered over the waters in creation, although it is a different word it has a similar feel.
How can the impossible become possible? The power of God is going to be released into the life of Mary and Elizabeth. God is going to act on their behalf. God is going to speak His name-Son of the Most High--into their world. He is going to say the Word . . . "possible." When the Most High God says the Word, the impossible becomes possible. When this Most High God says the Word, the impossible becomes possible.
Another place the title, "Most High God," is found in the story of the demon-possessed man in Luke 8:26-39. When the man saw Jesus, he fell at his feet and shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!" (v. 28). The very name the Most High connotes power. Even the forces of evil recognize the power of the Most High.
Mary asks, "how" and the angel says, "by God's power." Not by her power, not by Joseph's power, nor by the power of friends/family. It is not the power of nature or the power of luck, but by God's power!
Now zoom in on the very word "impossible" (v.37). The root word of "possible" is
the same word for power. Impossible comes from placing a negative prefix on the
word "possible," and essentially means without power, without the ability to
Mary asks "how" and the angel says, "by God's power."
Then the angel says, "By the way, in case you didn't know; you wondered about it; you had questions; you had doubts; let me tell you, inform you, remind you, announce to you--nothing is impossible with God! He has all power and can do all things!" (v. 37).
Into our world of impossibilities, God the Most High gives the word for the day . . . "possible!"
So, into our world--our world of impossibilities--God the Most High gives the word for the day . . . possible! And, He gives us grace for the impossible. The angel comes with a message of grace. "Highly favored" means "to grace," to be the object of grace (v.28). It is also translated as "accepted" in Ephesians 1:6 (depending on the version used). We could not handle it or even receive the power of the Most High, were it not for grace. You see, we are objects of God's grace. And therefore, God gives us grace for the impossible situations we face.
But, there is one more component we can't afford to miss. Zoom in on Luke 1:38, "I am the Lord's servant . . . . May it be to me as you have said." I must be a willing and surrendered participant.
When God's power is met with a willing and surrendered heart, the impossible becomes possible! "I am the Lord's servant . . . . May it be to me as you have said." That is to say, "Let the power of God turn the impossible into the possible. I am surrendered and I am willing."
And now for the rest of the impossible stories.
Go back to the little church in the impossible situation. God's power was unleashed on willing and surrendered hearts. It wasn't too long before land was purchased through a divine act, a church was built, and people were entering the kingdom of God. The impossible became possible.
I began to explain to my new friend that although he couldn't change his drug habits, God could. God's power was unleashed on a willing and surrendered heart. I can still see him as he made his way from the right side of the little sanctuary to an altar in repentance. The impossible became possible.
The young wife accepted Christ that day in spite of her fears, choosing to believe God would reach her beloved husband through her. God's power was unleashed on a willing and surrendered heart. He started coming to Sunday School celebration, then to class, then to church, and then to Christ. When I went to my next pastoral assignment he was on the church board and is still doing incredibly well, having led virtually his entire family to Christ. The impossible became possible.
The atheist wife was overwhelmed by the love and support of the church. She started attending regularly. And the day came when God's power was unleashed on a willing and surrendered heart. She knelt at an altar of prayer and put her faith in a God she earlier refused to believe even existed. I preached on the redeeming grace of God a few weeks later and my closing illustration was a wedding. This couple was united in marriage; their relationship was brought under the authority of the Word of God. The impossible became possible!
So I ask you this morning: What are the impossibilities in your world? What are the things that make you say: Impossible! No way! Won't happen!
The angel said, "Nothing is impossible with God!" Take a piece of paper and write your impossible prayer request. You can: Bring it to the altar to pray about it if you'd like. I want you to also put it in your Bible and watch God over time turn the impossible into possible by His power.
Are you willing to respond to God's power with a willing and surrendered heart? Are you willing to participate with God as He intervenes in the world of the impossible?
Bring your impossibilities to God and let Him speak His name: Son of the Most High.
Source: Preacher's Magazine, 2007
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