Luke 1:26-38
Nothing is Impossible

by Rev. Joseph M. Rampino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.  This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.  And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her first born son.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields an keeping the night watch over their flock.  The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.  The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.  And this will be a sign for you; you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.:"  And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

When we read this passage, the story of the angel Gabriel's appearance to Mary, our attention often settles either on the angel's initial greeting, or on Mary final response, "Hail full of grace. The Lord is with you."  May it be done to me according to your word."  This is, of course, for good reason.  Those two brief lines encapsulate so much of this season's mystery, and we could easily spend a lifetime considering each.  Yet today, I would have us turn our attention to another line in the passage that also speaks to us the entire truth of what we celebrate toward the end of Advent and through the Christmas season.

After describing to Mary everything that will take place, the conception of Jesus, who will be the "son of the Most High," who will "rule over the house of Jacob forever," and who will have a "kingdom" with "no end," as well as the miraculous conception of John the Baptist, Gabriel sums up his entire message.  He says to Mary: "nothing will be impossible for God."

Christmas is very much a celebration of those words.  Nothing will e impossible for God.  So much of what we see during these days seems far too good to be true.  God himself, the  creator of all things, the one whom even time and space cannot contain, now lives contained within Mary's womb for nine months.  The one whose hands shaped the cosmos, whose power split the Red Sea, whose might brought the people of Israel out of slavery, now becomes for us a little infant who can barely move his arms, and is bound up in swaddling clothes.  The one whose voice brought light out of darkness in the beginning, terrified the Israelites so much that they begged not to hear it any longer, and spoke perfect wisdom to the prophets, now only makes the wordless sounds of a newborn.  The one whose face is so glorious that none may see it directly and still live, whose gaze alone stopped the entire army of Egypt in their tracks, now has the face of a little baby, illuminated by the moon of the first Christmas night, by the gentle fires of a Bethlehem cave.  None of this should be possible, and yet, it has happened. 

More will follow as the Christ child grows.  In Jesus, the unchanging and eternal God will eat and drink, grow hungry and tired, will feel joy and anger and sorrow.  The  king of all the universe will put up with misunderstanding, contradiction, dismissiveness and insult.  The one who is life itself and the source of all life will suffer and give ;himself up to death.  Again, none of these things should be possible.  And yet, as the angel said to Mary at the beginning of it all, "Nothing will be impossible for God."

The truth is this, that God in his power and freedom loved us, and chose to display that love in such a way that our hearts would open to him in return.  During this Christmas season, and at every moment, he displays to us a love that goes beyond what we think is possible.  He breaks reality in order to heal us, and changes the whole structure of the world in order to bring us into his home.  What can we do in return but chose to trust him, and follow where he calls us?  If we do, what awaits us in union with him is a joy beyond what seems reasonable to desire, and a peaceful kingdom of impossible beauty.