By Damon Fontinel
When I was young, I used to listen to a song with these gripping lyrics:
My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me.
Those were frightening words. Would that be my story? Someday would I find my faith old, my heart hard, and my prayers cold? My faith was so new, so fresh. God could do anything; nothing was impossible for him. That would never be me!
Years later, I find myself closer to those lyrics than I’d like to admit. Perhaps the disappointments or heartbreaks of life chipped away at the newness of my faith, the openness of my heart, and the possibilities from my prayers. I wonder, am I alone in this? Maybe not.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were an older couple who lived “in the days of Herod, king of Judea”. The big story here is that they were unable to have children. They had prayed for children and that prayer went unanswered—or was not the answer they wanted. Until one day when Zechariah, who happened to be a priest, was working in the temple. The angel Gabriel appeared to him saying, “Don’t fear, Zechariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son.” Zechariah responds, “How shall I know this?” In other words, old Zechariah, a priest, is standing in the temple, in front of an angel and he asks for another sign!
Dry eyes, old faith, hard heart.
Despite Zechariah’s doubt, he and Elizabeth are blessed with a baby boy, and they name him John. God does the impossible.
Fast forward six months. Gabriel decides to make another visit but this time he visits a relative of Elizabeth’s. A young girl named Mary. Perhaps you’ve heard of her? Gabriel says to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High . . .”
Understandably, she says to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
After Gabriel explains the details he adds this extra encouragement, “And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Mary responds, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Clear eyes, a childlike faith, a soft heart.
Mary would soon bring a baby boy into the world and name him Jesus. God does the impossible.
In this well documented account of the beginning of the Christmas story both parties encounter God and both parties experience God doing the impossible. Since not all stories end this way, I wonder how hard the heart of Zechariah would have become if John hadn’t been born? And would we even have heard of Mary if it weren’t for Jesus? Thankfully the stories of Zechariah and Mary lead us to another story.
Jesus, the Christmas miracle baby now fully grown, entered the Garden of Gethsemane. His death imminent, he prayed to God: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
God’s will was that Jesus would die and do the impossible: rise to life—raising us to life with him. God does the impossible because with God all things are possible.
This Christmas, remember this gift to us: pray to a God who can do the impossible, even when it may look far different than we expect.
It’s probably fitting that I close with the rest of the lyrics of the song that I started with and perhaps this can be your prayer today.
But what can be done
For an old heart like mine?
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of Your Blood