Summary: A look at Mary's place at the manger.
Have you heard words like this before? There is no way. This won't work. It's impossible. I can't do it. I can't handle it. I can't keep going. I'm not gonna’ make it. Those words sound familiar to anybody? They are the words of defeat and pessimism and yet they are words that all of us do battle with from time to time. Some of you are facing a situation right now that you think is humanly impossible. From your standpoint, it is humanly impossible for you to handle. Perhaps there’s a financial situation that has you uttering those words, especially this time of year. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one and you can’t imagine how you’ll make it through this holiday season. Maybe you’ve lost your job, and the future looks dismal, or there’s news that has come from the doctor and there’s no way you’ll handle what’s ahead. Life seems impossible right now.
I’ve got good news for you. There was never a more impossible situation than the one we find in the Christmas story involving a young lady named Mary. Everything about Mary’s situation was impossible.
• It was impossible for Mary to be pregnant.
• It was impossible for Joseph to take her as his wife if she were.
• Impossible for them to make a life together in Nazareth if she were—people COULD count to nine in those days, you know?
Yet, Mary gives us a wonderful example of a response to the impossible circumstances of life. As I reflect on the events found in our Gospel passage today, I think there are a few things we can learn from Mary’s response as she encountered this impossible situation. I note her willingness to listen, her willingness to believe and her willingness to be used. Let’s reflect on those briefly.
First, Mary was willing to listen to God’s message. No matter what situation we face in life, God’s got something to say about it. We’re never alone in any situation, and sometimes, not only does God have something to say about it, but God is the cause of it. Don’t leave here today saying the preacher said “God is the cause of the impossible situation in my life.” That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying sometimes circumstances arise that God has a hand in in order to accomplish his purpose. Other times, we make dumb decisions and create situations for ourselves that appear impossible. But God doesn’t leave us there alone to figure it out. Still other times, others make choices that impact our lives in impossible ways. One example that is prevalent this time of year is impaired driving. Capt. Lewis and I shot a public service announcement you’ll see on KNOE, KAQY and the CW station over the next couple of weeks dealing with drunk driving. Someone else may choose to drive under the influence and their decision can play havoc in our lives if we’re involved in their accident, or if they are someone we love. Even then, though, God doesn’t leave us to ourselves. God is with us through every circumstance and situation, and God has guidance and concern, if we are willing to listen.
Mary’s situation was directly from God’s hand. God’s purpose was the salvation of the world, and Mary had a part to play. Mary would never have known had she not been willing to listen to God’s message.
I grew up with a party line. Anyone remember those? There are probably people here who don’t even remember rotary dial phones, but that’s another discussion. A party line was a telephone line that was shared by a number of households. Down on the Hebert exchange we were on a party line that included a good dozen households. Using the phone in those days almost took a schedule. And, everyone in the community knew what was going on, too, because someone was always listening in on another’s phone call. One gentleman in particular was notorious for listening in. I won’t mention his name because, well, he’s a relative, and I have relatives around here, and I don’t want to embarrass anyone, but he was also notorious for not hanging up the phone when he finished a call. If you didn’t hang up the phone, the line stayed open and no one else could use the phone. Often times, we would pick up the phone and someone would be shouting to get his attention, imploring him to please hang up the phone. I’m not sure if Mr. Sidney ever heard those shouts and pleadings, but they were there nonetheless.
Sometimes, God feels the way we used to feel trying to get Mr. Sidney’s attention (oh, I said his name, didn’t I?). God is shouting, but no one is listening. We just go about our business trying desperately to deal with our situation that appears impossible. All the while God is calling out to us to get our attention. I wonder what we would hear if we stopped, like Mary, long enough to listen to what God’s messenger has to say. Like Mary, we too, might discover that the message contains a blessing. It might not seem like it in the moment, but God’s promise is true.