By Rachel Gunter Shapard
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. – Luke 1:26-38
The narrative of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary within Luke’s Gospel is familiar to many of us.
As we read it this Advent season, we are mesmerized yet again by the heavenly messenger. We cannot help but wonder what it must have been like to entertain such a visitor—one not of this world. We are also astounded by the strength and faithfulness of a ﬁrst century young Galilean woman.
We have tried in years past to crawl into her shoes and experience such a sacred and fantastical visit. Although these two characters steal our attention in the biblical narrative, they are not the center of the story.
It is God who is the focus of the narrative. God sent Gabriel. God promised to provide Mary sanctuary, overshadowing all by which she feels threatened. The promised one, Jesus, will be the son of the Most High God. The central message of the Lukan text is about God—our God for whom nothing is impossible.
As we seek to endure within month nine of a pandemic, now more than ever we need to remember that nothing is impossible for God. As we face a Christmas that looks diﬀerent than all others, we long for the assurance derived from Luke’s narrative. As we reﬂect upon the loss of life, employment, memories and milestones we’d hoped to experience, we desperately cling to our belief in a God for whom nothing is impossible.
I recently encountered this God, for whom nothing is impossible, when I met a gentleman named Marcus who lives in Together for Hope’s Black Belt Region.
Marcus is working for a nonproﬁt that is seeking to impact three of the most life-threatening health problems in his county of persistent rural poverty. As a child, Marcus did not have access to adequate housing. Yet through the experience of moving into a Habitat house, his life trajectory was forever altered. Now Marcus is working to transform the lives of others in his community for good.
What once seemed impossible became possible for Marcus, and now he is seeking to give the same gift to others that he once received. Praise be to our God for whom nothing is impossible!
Rev. Rachel Gunter Shapard serves as the Regional Vice President for Together for Hope in the Black Belt.