Picture of Pastor Carlson

Sermon delivered December 25, 2004 by Pastor Paul Carlson

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version, NIV, unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Living the Impossible

It was a sad prospect. Kim Mullaney and her husband, Timothy, had resigned themselves to the sad fact that they would never have children. You see, at the age of 20, Kim had been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a condition that usually results in infertility. But at age 37, Kim began experiencing some health problems and consulted her doctor. His diagnosis? Kim was eight months' pregnant! But that was not the end of the surprise. Five days after first learning of the pregnancy, Kim developed medical complications and so the doctors had to induce labor. The Mullaney's son, Samuel, was born a few minutes later. In five days, from their perspective, the Mullaneys went from being childless to having a newborn baby. 1 I would imagine that their response was "Wow! This must be a God thing."

Thousands of years ago, there was another God thing, one much more wonderful for all of us. And no doubt by now you have heard the Christmas story many times. Let me ask you this: As you hear the Christmas Story, what is your heart's response? How does it strike you? More specifically, what is your response as you hear the words of the angel coming to tell Mary that she was going to give birth to the Messiah? I invite you to open your Bibles to the Gospel of Luke 1.

Luke 1:26-37. In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."

Nothing is impossible with God? I like that... that's my response. "Wow!"

No doubt, you are aware, of course, that this emphasis pops up in many other places in the Bible. You may remember from Genesis 18:14 that the Lord's response to Abraham in regard to Sarah's disbelief that she would bear a child in her very old age. God said, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?"

You may also remember in Jeremiah 32:17 that the prophet said, "Ah, Sovereign Lord, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched hand. There is nothing too hard for You."

You may also remember the story in Matthew 19:26, Jesus uttered this same principle. After telling his disciples that it was "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven,2 the disciples replied that no one could possibly be saved. Jesus replied, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

This is the truth, the keynote, that keeps knocking at our minds as we look back at Jesus' birth and His life and His death. Nothing is impossible with God. This is the lesson of Jesus' birth, I believe. This is the meaning of Christ's coming to this earth as a baby in Bethlehem.

But now, let's step back a little bit and let's look at the larger perspective. In your minds, all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden of creation that God created, the Garden of Eden, the garden of eve and Adam, the Garden of Eden. When man sinned, Satan thought that He had God trapped in an impossible situation. Satan declared that God couldn't be merciful. The wages of sin is death. And so Satan thought that if God demanded justice, He would not be merciful. The Enemy also declared that if God did show mercy and forgiveness, then He would no longer be just. Satan so artfully misrepresented God as "severe, exacting, revengeful and arbitrary, and as one who would take pleasure in the sufferings of his creatures."3

But God works very well under pressure, and I'm thankful for that. After all, nothing is impossible with God. What was God's response? Well, the only way God could "set and keep men right" with Himself was to send His Son so that God, Who was Himself, God, that God would be visible and familiar to their eyes4 , so they could see Him and really know Him. Jesus lived His life and then died the death that results from sin in order to show the righteousness, the truthfulness of God, with the result that God would be both righteous and forgiving.

Paul tells us in Romans 3:25-26 that Jesus' sacrifice was to "demonstrate His righteousness, that He might be righteous and the one who puts right those who have faith in Jesus." So you can see why the angel said that with God nothing is impossible.

Now, let's think of the significance of all of this: We are here today and alive because nothing is impossible with God. And by depending on God, we can live a life full of His healing and restorative grace. Think of what the gift of forgiveness means to us, and the hope that we have through the gift of new life and of cleansing: His spiritual power. These are all possible because nothing is impossible with God. Nothing.

When you think of Jesus coming here as a little Baby, think of the results. Think of how the Father was revealed in Christ as altogether different from Satan's accusations. Think of all the changes that God is able to work in our own lives: teaching us new truths. . . helping us to grow in His unselfishness.

There is an ancient story of an old soldier, a former battlefield comrade, who approached the Roman emperor Augustus with a request. This man was involved in a lawsuit that was turning out badly for him, and he asked for a favor. He appealed to the emperor to appear in court on his behalf. Augustus was too busy so he asked a member of his staff to speak on the man's behalf. The old man felt insulted. He rolled back his sleeves to reveal scars he'd earned in war, and shouted, "When you were in danger at the battle of Actium, I didn't send in a substitute. I fought for you myself!" He had a point. So, Augustus decided to go himself.

In a similar way, friends, God did not send a substitute. God Himself came to our world to live amongst us. We owe our existence and all the good that God has put into our lives to Jesus' birth, life and death for us. And when you think of all the sacrifices that Jesus made in coming to this earth, you can't help but come to the conclusion that there really is nothing that God cannot deal with. For nothing is impossible with God. When we put our minds and our lives into God's hands, there is nothing He cannot do for us.

Three long years of captivity had worn down the inmates of Kampili, a notorious women's prison camp in the Celebes islands that the Japanese had set up during World War II. 5 Many of the inmates had become completely demoralized, but one prisoner, a former missionary to New Guinea named Darlene Rose, responded to the crisis by trusting God. Darlene petitioned the Lord on behalf of Mr. Yamaji, the brutal camp commander who would beat prisoners unmercifully when angered.

One day, standing before this brutal man in his office, she had the opportunity to share a few words about the Almighty Creator who came down to this earth and died for him. He listened to this story and tears ran down his cheeks, and he rushed into an adjoining room. After that day, Mr. Yamaji began to show kindness to her and even tried to improve camp conditions for everyone.

Darlene could have let the circumstances of her horrible prison life discourage her. But, instead, she decided to trust God in the here and now in which she found herself. And because she kept looking for signs of God's presence in that place she found them.

For example, one night she watched from her cell window as someone sneaked a bunch of bananas through a vine-covered fence to one of the native prisoners. Darlene dropped to the floor of her cell, trembling, overcome with craving. She had not had bananas in quite a long time. "Lord," she exclaimed, "just one banana!" A little later she gave thanks contritely for her bowl of rice porridge. But the next morning a guard walked into her cell and dropped a large cluster of bananas at her feet. Darlene slowly counted ninety-two of the precious fruit. I don't know how she could eat all those bananas. In that experience, she heard God whisper to her, "That's what I delight to do the exceeding abundant above anything you ask or think." Darlene Rose found God in her present circumstances because she trusted Him.

Jesus came into this world so that our lives could be changed for the better. Jesus was born that we might be God's reverent and trusting friends. The birth, life and death of Jesus reveal the wonderful truth about God's character and government and by beholding Him we can be changed.

Today, all that God asks of is that we trust Him. God is looking for people who will trust Him enough to listen to Him. That's what it really means to obey God: I means to listen to Him. Because, when they listen to God, you give Him the attention that He needs so He can then heal you and change you.

God is looking for people who will trust Him in good times and also in bad times. And it's up to us to choose to let God's gift of love and grace through this Baby named Jesus to inspire us, to trust God with the impossible, and to trust God for the power to live the impossible. It's up to us. What will be your choice?


Endnotes:

1. "The five day wonder pregnancy" by Timothy J Mallaney, Ladies' Home Journal, April 2002, pp. 58-63.

2. "It is easier for a gamla to go through the eye of a needle." Holy Bible from The Ancient Eastern Text by Geirge M, Lamsa, Harper Row, San Francisco. The Aramaic word gamla means rope and camel.

3. "God Made manifest in Christ," The Ellen G. White Signs of the Times Articles, Volume 2(1886-1892, pp. 350-351).

4. Ibid.

5. "Journal of a Lonely God," by Mike Tucker (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2005), pp. 68-70.


Hymn of Praise: #135,  O Little Town of Bethlehem
Scripture:  Luke 1:26-28
Hymn of Response: #125, Joy to the World



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