Midweek Advent Worship December 13, 2023
“Too Hard?” Genesis 18:1-15
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
On Tuesday I saw a man named Bob Yackel. Bob is one of the artists from the Heritage Fine Arts Guild who have come to Ascension every Thursday, for decades, creating wonderful drawings and paintings. Bob, now, has both melanoma and dementia and is in a care facility.
I met with him, and his wife Nancy, and she was showing me some of the art he has done over the years. He has a poster of the over 25 adobe churches of New Mexico that he has painted. I marveled at the quality of his work. I’m one who has trouble making stick men and here he is – replicating churches and their surroundings with great beauty.
There are some things that are just too hard. For some of us it is knowing how to paint or draw or create some great piece of art. Some struggle with science. Others with math. Some of us can’t follow the directions that IKEA has for us to assemble a desk or a bed. I bet you have something that is just impossible for you to do.
Our account of Abraham and Sarah is a story about the impossible. Abraham, when he was a young man was told that he was going to be the father of a great nation. Sarah, his wife, would mother those children. But that possibility had passed them by. She couldn’t have children and he couldn’t father children. He was approaching Millie Fitzpatrick’s age (102, by the way) and Sarah was trying to catch up to Edna Achziger (95).
In our reading three men – two angel’s and the Lord Himself – came to tell Abraham that by this time next year he would be a dad and Sarah a mother. When Sarah heard the foolishness of this she laughed. But I don’t think it was a happy laugh but a scorned laugh. Like – “You’re kidding me!! We’ve been holding onto this dream for too many years. I’m over this. I’m 90 and he’s 100. That is just a bit too old to learn how to change diapers and have a midnight feeding!”
The Lord asked Abraham a question in all of this, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14) That’s a good question. Sometimes we live as if there are things that God can’t do, or won’t do. We know our troubles, our lack of self-control, our habits that are sinful, and we think there is no way out. We carry a burden of guilt from the past and don’t think that God can ever forgive us for that sin. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
During this month I have given up sports talk so I can listen to wonderful Christmas music. My station has also been playing Hanukkah music and telling the stories of how Hanukkah started. About 164 BC when the Greeks were the power of the world, they were insisting that the Jews give up their religion and worship the many Greek gods. But faithful Jews would have nothing of it. They fought the Greeks and eventually were able to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem. But it had been desecrated. The Greeks had offered sacrifices in the Holy of Holies to their gods. The Temple had to be cleansed and rededicated.
As I listened a Rabbi from Colorado Springs was telling the account of what happened next. There was not enough oil to light the candle in the Temple to burn for the proper amount of time for rededication. A small flask of oil was all they found. They knew it would burn for only for a few hours and then go out. But it didn’t. It burned for eight days – long enough for all that had to be done to rededicate God’s temple. It was God’s miracle. Jews still light candles for eight days – the length of Hanukkah – to tell the world that God is still a God of miracles.
The account of Abraham and Sarah and the son of the promise, the son of a miracle – Isaac – leads up to the miracle of Christmas. But now our account isn’t two old people but two young people. Now it isn’t a married couple who had tried many times to have a child, but it was an engaged couple who hadn’t tried, even once, to bring a child into this world.
When the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she would be with child and give birth to a son and that His name would be Jesus (See Luke 1:26-33) she didn’t laugh, but was quite confused. She said, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)
Is there anything too hard for God? Mary was told, “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:36)
God is the God of the impossible. Isn’t that the message of Christmas? An impossible birth. An impossible event of God taking on flesh – Immanuel – God with us. God doing the impossible in our life. He gives us faith and hope. He removes our sin and promises that life even after death happens, will be what we receive.
The son that Abraham and Sarah had was Isaac. His name was given from God for him. His name means laughter. God’s surprise. God’s joy. The son that God gave to Mary and Joseph was Jesus. Again, His name came from heaven. His name means “God saves”. Joseph is told, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
The impossible was done. The miracle happened. God did such things then, and He still does them today. God moving you to faith by His word is a miracle. God washing you in Baptism is a miracle. How about eating and drinking heavenly food at the Lord’s Table? Miracle? Yes. Eternal life? Heaven? Resurrection of your flesh on the last day? Is anything too hard for the Lord? No. Not in Abraham’s day. Not in Mary and Jospeh’s day. Not in our day.
My new friend, Bob Yackel, still has a few things to say, even with a mind that is not as bright as a month ago. I bemoaned about being artistically challenged and quite coarsely he said, “Get over it.”
There are some things we can’t do anything about. There are some things that we don’t have the answer, but God does. Is there anything too hard for the Lord? No. We place the hardest things into His hands. That’s what Christmas is all about. Amen!!