Christmas: a story of the impossible

It will never happen. It’s impossible. I’m too broken.

Ever feel this way?christmas the impossible

I know I have, in more ways than one. This week I felt like I was spinning my wheels and going nowhere. One step forward, a bazillion steps back. When great effort produces little results and our lives remain unchanged, hope dwindles.

What about you?

What desire have you dismissed as impossible? What dream have you given up on?  What area in your life feels impossible to change?

When the “once possible” crosses the threshold of “never going to happen”, hope is deflated. Confidence obliterated. The probable has now become the impossible.

Impossible. Can’t happen. Out of reach.

This is where we find two significant but overlooked characters of the Christmas story.

“…there was a priest named Zacharias…and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments of the Lord. But they had no child…and they were both advanced in years.” (Luke 1:5-7)

At the very beginning, Luke goes to great lengths to tell us three important things about this couple. First, Zacharias was a priest, meaning he was part of the highest class of society whose life purpose was to serve Almighty God in the temple. Second, Elizabeth was a woman of highest reputation (Lev 21:13-15), also being from a priestly line herself. Third, the couple loved God with all their heart and spent their entire lives following Him and doing what was right.

But.

They were childless. When the other women were throwing baby showers, birthday parties and talking about nursery decor, Elizabeth was silent. While others held their babies, her arms remained empty. While other men boasted about their boys, Zacharias had no heir. No one to carry the family name. No baby to snuggle, no child to train, no little voice to fill the home.

Did their hope start to falter? Did they think “maybe this year” only to watch the years pass them by? At what point did their possible become impossible and they realized their dream for a child was no longer within reach?

And what were the neighbors saying? Were there quiet whispers in the streets as they passed by? In that society, if the couple was barren then others believed there must be something wrong with them. What sin or secret were they hiding? The shame and stigma they would have carried among neighbors and friends who thought God was punishing them must have been unbearable.

Here Luke subtly addresses one of the deepest, most painful questions we face when God withholds a blessing.

What’s wrong with us?

Because everyone knows that good people get blessed. And if God doesn’t give you your heart’s desire, then you must not deserve it. There must be something wrong with you. This line of thinking is easy to fall into when your heart is hurting. Elizabeth’s neighbors though it. Job’s friends told him so.

But the Bible makes it abundantly clear that this couple did everything right. They were faithful. They were righteous. They served God their entire lives. Yet they still failed to see their greatest desire come to pass.

When you don’t see your heart’s desire fulfilled, it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it or that God is mad or punishing you. God’s blessing is not a direct result of our behavior, good or bad. Sometimes God withholds what is good because He wants to do something greater in our lives.

God prefers the impossible. It’s His specialty. “Is anything too difficult for [Me]?…Is My hand so short that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver?” (Gen 18:14, Isa 50:3)

Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26). The Christmas story is full of impossibilities. A virgin gave birth. God Himself, Immanuel, came in the form of man and dwelt among us. On the stage of the impossible, God’s miraculous work and power were publicly on display.

When they were too old,

When all hope seemed lost,

When their time had passed,

When their dream had died,

When they could no longer do it on their own,

When there was no chance,

When it was impossible,

God showed up.

“And an angel of the Lord appeared to him… ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord…And he will turn many back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before [the Messiah]…” (Luke 1:13-17)

In the eleventh-hour, God performed the impossible. He had not forgotten them. He waited to act until there was no possible chance of deliverance so that His power, love and grace would be on public display for everyone to see (Luke 1:65-66).

Not only did He give the couple their heart’s desire, He vindicated them in front of everyone and used their lives to display his great works. Even more, He created their child for a greater purpose than they could have ever imagined. The child they had longed for all their lives became a powerful prophet and fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, preparing their people for the arrival of the Messiah.

God doesn’t just do the impossible, He goes above and beyond our wildest dreams. And He teaches us how to trust while we wait for Him to act.

What shocks me most about this story is that Zacharias never gave up. For years he could have blamed Elizabeth for their problems. Or he could have tried to fix it himself. He could have cut and run. He had legal grounds to divorce her and marry someone else who could give him a son, proving his innocence to others and securing his reputation.

But he didn’t. Instead, he prayed. According to the angel’s greeting, Zacharias was still asking God for what he desired most. What?? Even in his old age, when by world’s standards all hope was lost, Zacharias still believed God could provide. He entrusted his problem, his heart, and his reputation to God. He never gave up and never stopped entrusting himself to the One who could do the impossible.

What desire have you dismissed as impossible? What dream have you given up on?  What area of your life feels impossible to change?

Let this Christmas story serve as a reminder that God is a God of the impossible. When all hope seems lost, He still delivers. He sees your story and knows your heart’s desire. He has not forgotten you. He may be delaying the good in order to do something great. Like Zacharias, may we never stop praying. May we still have faith even when reality says it’s impossible.

May you continue to entrust your heart and situation to God, knowing that nothing is too difficult for Him.

“Then you will know that I am the LORD; and those who hope in me shall not be disappointed” (Isa 49:23).

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