December 24, 2023

"Nothing is Impossible with God”

Rev. Scott Landis

Luke 1:26-38

The fourth Sunday of Advent (which concludes the holy season of preparation) and Christmas Eve occur on the same day only once every 6 or 7 years. This year happens to be one leaving the preacher with a choice whether to focus on the Fourth Sunday – the Sunday of Aloha (love) or on Jesus’ birth. Since most years our attention is drawn to Jesus and the birth narrative, I find myself drawn, this year, toward Mary and think perhaps we might glean something from the way she handled the rather delicate situation made known to her by the angel Gabriel. 

You know the scene and you can only imagine the feelings involved. Mary is at home minding her business when there’s a knock at the door. The dogs bark and the cats scramble as Mary opens the door to a most unusual salutation, “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Understandably, as Luke records, she was somewhat perplexed wondering what kind of greeting this might be. Certainly, this was not the Publisher’s Clearing House people pulling up to her door announcing she had won the jackpot. No, this was Gabriel – a messenger from God. 

We can also surmise that angelic visitation must be quite startling, indeed frightening, since his first words to Mary are, “fear not.” Gabriel continues, “It’s your lucky day. (God has a surprise for you). You will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus.” That alone would have given her quite a lot to ponder. 

“But wait,” Gabriel said, “there’s more. This is no ordinary child.” As if she hadn’t figured that out already. “He will be,” and then Gabriel lists all the qualities to try and reassure Mary:

Son of the Most High
He will be given the throne of David
He will be holy
Son of God

None of which seemed terribly impressive to Mary, nor did it seem to alleviate her fears. Then Gabriel continued, “And now your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son. She who was previously barren is in her sixth month – for Nothing is Impossible with God. 

Now Gabriel was talking, and it was exactly what Mary needed to hear. She didn’t need an angelic visitation. Not words of assurance nor titles of greatness for her son. What she needed was the knowledge that she would not be alone. She had someone she could confide in – someone who would understand her predicament. She had a traveling companion for this journey – someone she trusted and who would walk with her through these days of uncertainty. 

That’s the word from God that I need to hear tonight. Perhaps you might feel the same. I love the nostalgia of this holy season of Advent and of the blessing of gathering on Christmas Eve here on the lawn at Keawala’i. I love the singing the carols against the backdrop of the waves and the view of the setting sun. I love the trees, the presents, the parties – and all that makes this the most wonderful time of the year. But this year I am struck – more than most – of the importance and need of those willing to walk with me in a time of transition and uncertainty. I need to be reminded that I’m not doing this by myself. That I am not alone. 

We’ve been beat up pretty badly here on Maui in the past few years and months since I’ve lived on the island. Just as the pandemic finally began to subside, we experienced the deadliest wildfire in modern history – from which it will take us years to recover and rebuild. All of that in tension with the many daily hardships that constitute our lives may leave you scratching your head and wondering with Mary, “what kind of greeting this might be – this Merry Christmas – this Mele Kalikimaka. 

But into that uncertainty we are reminded of Gabriel’s words “Fear not – nothing is impossible with God.” Emmanuel, God has come to live among us – in the form of a baby – and in the gifts of aloha we give to one another. 

When Mary received the news that her cousin was in the same situation as she – she immediately went to visit her. When we receive news that is too difficult for us to bear, what’s the first thing we do? If you’re like me, you seek out someone who will understand — a dear friend. Perhaps it’s someone who has been in a similar situation, who knows your predicament firsthand, and need not say anything other than simply to be present to you.

  There are a few hundred of us here this afternoon – each one living a different story. Some hearts are filled with joy while others are doing everything they can just to hold it together. The Good News on this day – this Christmas Eve is the same given to Mary – we are not alone. God is with us. “Nothing is impossible with God.” We know that – but we need to hear it every now and and again, and it needs to be embodied in someone who gets us and understands. 

Who is your Elizabeth today? Who can you go to and will accept you for who you are – wherever you are on life’s journey, no matter your situation? There is someone who is ready to listen. Never doubt that. Just as Mary was reassured, I want to reassure you – you are not alone. For unto you is born -  in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. “Nothing is impossible with God.”


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