And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” . . . And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
(Luke 1:18, 34, ESV)
Have you ever been confronted by an impossible situation? Have you ever looked ahead and not been able to see your way forward? In the Nativity narrative that opens Luke’s Gospel, two people are confronted with such “impossible” situations.
First, an angel appeared to Zechariah, one of God’s priests serving in the Jerusalem temple. Zechariah was, in the minds of his neighbors, “close to God.” But as he burned incense within the temple, an angel appeared to him and announced that his previously barren wife, Elizabeth, would soon give birth to a son. Zechariah responded with skepticism: “How shall I know this?” (Luke 1:18). Rather than rejoice in the possibility of God’s blessing, Zechariah chose to focus on the impossibility of the situation. As a result, the angel silenced Zechariah until John’s birth.
Second, an angel also appeared to Mary, a young lady betrothed to Joseph. Mary, in the minds of her neighbors, would not have been sought out for wisdom in her community. The angel announced that she would carry and birth the Son of God, the long-expected Davidic King. Mary responded with wonder: “How will this be?” (1:34). While Mary could not conceive how such a thing could happen, her question was pregnant with possibility—Almighty God was going to do great things through her. As a result, the angel unfolded the details: Mary would conceive by the Holy Spirit, and her cousin Elizabeth was also with child.
The angel concluded his words to Mary with a stirring statement of God’s power: “Nothing will be impossible with God” (1:37). As we consider the Savior’s birth, how are you choosing to see the world? We can affirm, like Zechariah, our limited vision of what we think is possible. Or, like Mary, we can choose to see the world through the eyes of faith in the one true God, for whom all things are possible.