Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent 4

“Nothing is impossible to God” - “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me”

We have to keep these two sayings - of the angel, and of Mary - close together. They explain so much and tell us so much.

And at the other extreme, we live in a world which far from believing Nothing is impossible to God, believes that nothing is impossible to man. All diseases can be cured, we believe, it is just a matter of time. Perhaps it is. Scientific and technological advance is without limit. We can clone human beings - if we wish. We may experiment with the basic stuff of like. And the only moral law that exists is the law of choice, nothing is impossible to man.

Yet this is not what the Angel says to Mary. And it might seem to us that the Angels is saying that because nothing is impossible to God - or supposed to be - that human beings play little part. We may misunderstand miracle stories in the Gospels, or we may pray as if it were the case, that God just speaks from the clouds, drops events, or thunderbolts out of heaven. We may struggle to understand - if nothing is impossible - why so much seems imperfect, why good things are left undone. Why does God allow this to happen, we might say. Or, similarly, why doesn’t God change things?

Yet God doesn’t act in quite this way. Look at the miracle stories - time and time again Jesus says “Your faith has healed you”. When God calls Isaiah, the prophet responds “Here I am Lord”. When he dwelt amongst us he didn’t parachute down, unexpectedly out of the sky, but he was born of a virgin, a woman who was not used, but who gave her consent and obedience and her love. Remember the time when Jesus visited his home town and the Gospel tells us “He could do few miracles there, because they were hard of heart”, they lacked faith in him. God gives grace - but we must make it work - we can refuse his love.

The Gospel teaches us that indeed nothing is impossible - but only if human beings act in accordance with God’s will. We can create or destroy. We can use the gifts and talents which God has given us, or we can waste them. No artist, or skilled sportsman, or great actor, or poet made those talents for themselves - but through their efforts they apply them magnificently. This is what we call God’s grace. A gift that  brings heaven to earth - for nothing is impossible to God.

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