SUMMER PODCAST REBOOT – this episode was originally published at Christmas in 2019.
Hello! Merry Tuesday and welcome to this festive foundations podcast. My name is Jack and I am part of the staff team here at STC Sheffield. I don’t normally talk to grownups during my job – so if you aren’t sure who I am: I’m the tall ginger one who leaps around at the front during family worship on a Sunday morning who, along with some absolute legends on the kids team, leads Kids Church here at STC.
Today’s Bible passage is Luke 1: 26-38, and I’m going to be focusing on verse 37. But first –
We are approaching an event marked in calendars by young and old across the world. Something people have been counting down to all month. One of the great cultural, commercial and intergenerational events of the year. Yes, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is in cinemas this Thursday!
I LOVE Star Wars. As I write this podcast I am wearing some Star Wars themed socks and am drinking from a stormtrooper keep cup. When Bekah and I got married we walked out to a disco remix of the main theme (Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, look it up!). As a child, I watched the original films practically on repeat. So much so that even now, 20ish years later my parents can still have a good stab at being word for word along with the films. Star Wars is even responsible for me learning to read, from when my mum stopped reading out the opening text crawl to me.
I recently read a review of the original Star Wars film by someone who has never seen it before. There was all the usual stuff – Darth Vader is a brilliant villain, some of the special effects still look incredible, lightsabres are, not to be too understated, awesome – but there was some stuff that surprised me. Things I’d never really realised. The story arcs of the characters. The tension of the climactic space battle at the end. Subtexts to dialogue I’d never picked up on. Bits that you don’t really pick up in a film as a child. I realised that my familiarity with the story had robbed me of the wonder and depth of it. I knew the film so well bits of it had passed me by.
Today’s Bible passage is a very familiar one, one we hear at nativities and carol services every year – Luke 1:26-38. For those who haven’t quite got Luke’s gospel fully memorised: Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel and told she is going to have a baby, who is to be called Jesus, and will be called Son of the most high and will be given the throne of David. After some initial confusion around biology Gabriel explains that the baby is to be conceived by the Holy Spirit and be called the Son of God and that even Elizabeth, one of Mary’s relatives, is expecting a baby in her old age, because nothing is impossible with God. There’ll be the full reading at the end of this podcast, and I wonder if there’ll be some of you who, like my parents with A New Hope, could have a good go at saying it along with me word for word!
As I mentioned in my intro, in my role on the staff team I lead Kids Church. One of the great joys of talking with kids about Jesus is that they don’t always know how the story of Jesus and God’s people is going to end. Sometimes that ends comedically – Spies being mistaken for Spiders definitely changes the story of Rahab in Jericho! – but sometimes it’s profoundly moving – I will always remember the look on a child’s face as we talked together about what Jesus did for us, and as they grasped how extravagantly loved by God they are for the first time.
Today’s Bible passage is a classic. We know how the story ends. Maybe when we hear this reading we’re waiting to get to the bit with the Shepherds, or the “no room at the inn” bit, or the bit with the Wise men and the strange presents. But to do that, to mentally fast forward through the familiarity, is to miss out on the full wonder and glory of what God did, and who and what God is. Jesus says in Matthew’s gospel that we have to become like little children. What if we did that this Christmas, and let the outrageous, extravagant love and power of God fill us and speak to us afresh through these passages? Let’s focus in on one verse in particular from today’s reading:
Luke 1:37 “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God”. That’s what Gabriel says to Mary at the end of today’s passage. Nothing is impossible with God. We read it almost in passing at the end of Gabriel’s message. Say that out loud with me now. “Nothing is impossible with God”.
My question to you today is this: Do you believe what you’ve just said? Do you truly know deep down that nothing is impossible with God? Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes there are situations, there are battles, there are places where I’m not sure I know that. Where my head is telling me God is all over it, that God’s timing is perfect, but my heart is giving up hope. Where do you need to be reminded of God’s glory, of God’s power, of God’s love today? Where do you need to be reminded of the wonder of what God has done? Where, this Christmas, do you need hope? Ask someone to pray with you today – let’s be reminded what God can do!
Thank you for today. Thank you for your love for us. This Advent, help us to meet with you afresh. Help us to see where you are at work in our lives, and to be reminded that nothing is impossible with You.
BIBLE READING: Luke 1:26-38 (MSG)
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.
She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.
He will be great,
be called ‘Son of the Highest.’
The Lord God will give him
the throne of his father David;
He will rule Jacob’s house forever—
no end, ever, to his kingdom.”
Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”
The angel answered,
The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
the power of the Highest hover over you;
Therefore, the child you bring to birth
will be called Holy, Son of God.
“And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”
And Mary said,
Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
just as you say.
Then the angel left her.