When you say that such a thing can NEVER happen, what you mean is that it cannot occur based upon your previous experience of life, and upon your knowledge of the world.
What if everything so far has been prelude and things are about to shift forever? Imagine a meteor striking the earth and setting off a barely imaginable new way of understanding existence, or a wholly unexpected effect of rapid Global Warming, or the accidental development of a new super-virus. These –as you have probably figured by now- are the plot lines of a few What-If disaster movies set in the near future.
What if God wanted to speak to the world he had made in a wholly unprecedented way?
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him 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 Jacob’s descendants 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 on 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 unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
The punch-line of Mary’s encounter with the angel is the clause “No word from God will ever fail.” How could it? According to the first chapter of Genesis, God spoke the world into being. And, in the powerful words of Charles Wesley: “He speaks and listening to his voice, new life the dead receive.” Ezekiel saw in a vision a pile of bleached bones and was told to “Prophesy.” Speak to “dem bones” and see them come alive! And God speaks life into what is barren (like Elizabeth, like the chaos of pre-creation, like the heart of one who doesn’t know God, like Mary herself) and life begins.
And no word from God will ever fail!
For if God is, then all things are possible. When we let go of our unbelief, when we let go of our trust in ourselves and our flawed understanding based on what we think is true and possible, we can receive the new life of the Holy Spirit. That is what Mary had to do. She had to come to the realization that she didn’t know everything, that she couldn’t know everything, that what she was experiencing was something much bigger than she had ever encountered before. She had to come to the point of admitting that, humanly speaking, no possibility existed. She was in uncharted waters.
Isn’t that true of us?
We want to have everything under control. We want to know everything so that we are not surprised, not blindsided by the stuff that comes at us. But we find ourselves in impossible situations with fewer and fewer options available to us. Life can seem to close in on us, problems, issues, crises…. The words of Gabriel present a life-line in a sea of calamities: “Nothing is impossible with God.”
It recalls to me that line from Kierkkegaard: “When one is about to despair, the cry is, Procure me possibility, procure possibility. Possibility is the only saving remedy; given a possibility, and with that the desperate man breathes once more, he revives again; for without possibility a man cannot, as it were, draw breath.”
To believe in God means to believe that all things are possible!
To pray, to be able to face today or tomorrow, requires us to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to do, what seems to us to be, the impossible. The Gospel requires a response. When the Lord comes to us in the power of the Holy Spirit we receive new life. There is a spiritual regeneration and revelation. We realize that we are being given an opportunity.
What is Mary’s response? “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said, ” This is what Paul called “the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5).
Mary heard and responded with saving faith.
But you too have heard the same call: How do you respond?
The Lord is with you, too!
The Holy Spirit brings you the life of Christ to be formed in you.
It seems impossible to believe.
Yet nothing is impossible with God.
Faith is believing in possibility.
And Mary became the Lord’s servant.
She entered into the obedience that comes from faith.
She became a Christ-bearer.
She experienced at first-hand the life-giving power of His Spirit.
What happens next is your call.