Digging in Deeper: Genesis 18:13-14

“But the Lord asked Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, “Can I really have a baby when I’m old?” Is anything impossible for the Lord? At the appointed time I will come back to you, and in about a year she will have a son.’”‬‬ (CSB – Read the chapter)

There’s a genre of kids movie that could be called the everything-goes-wrong film. Home Alone is a classic of this genre. So is the more recent film, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day with Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner. In the movie, which is based on the classic children’s book of a generation ago, an increasingly ridiculous series of things happen to Alexander and his family. The comedy is not simply that one of these possible-but-unlikely events happens to the family, but that the whole series of them do all in a row. Sometimes it seems like that’s how God works.

My own family had a week like that recently. Our youngest got a mystery tummy bug that resulted in vomit flying at times and in places that would have worked as plot points in a kids movie. Then, on Thanksgiving day, we had two roasters and the oven going to get everything cooked for lunch. First the roasters were variously blowing their fuses and so we had to play musical plugs to keep them on and cooking. Then, just as we were ready to start cycling casseroles through the oven, the control panel went dead and we couldn’t use it anymore. On Thanksgiving. With company coming.

The more we tell the story, the more we laugh about it, but we certainly weren’t laughing then.

What makes situations like that so funny (later) is not just that they happened, but that they happened all together in sequence. The odds of that particular series of events happening ever again is laughably small. And, I know that technically applies to any series of events, but this was a time it seemed to apply even a little more than usual.

You know who else experienced something like that? Abraham and Sarah. A major part of their story—in fact it is probably better labeled the central theme of it—is God’s promise to create a nation from their descendants. The irony of this promise is that it was made to them by God Himself when they didn’t have any children and were already well past childbearing years.

And yet, for twenty-five years, it was held out before them like a carrot to keep them moving on down the path God was leading them to follow. Finally, after some choices they made that rendered the things a whole lot more complicated and messy than they were ever intended to be, God came one more time to reaffirm that it really was His intention to do just what He had said He planned to do all those years before.

By this time, though, Abraham was one hundred years old and Sarah was ninety. Then, like now, that’s the point in life you have begun planning for your funeral, not your baby shower. The notion of their having a son at this point in their life was so far outside the realm of what made sense that it was laughable. Indeed, both Abraham and Sarah laughed to themselves when God reaffirmed His promise in their hearing. They weren’t going to laugh to His face (and Sarah outright and dishonestly denied laughing), but the ridiculousness of what He insisted He was planning brought out their laughter almost involuntarily.

Sometimes—frankly a lot of the time—that’s how God works. When He sets about accomplishing His plans for His world, the means He often uses are so far outside the bounds of what we would consider reasonable that the only way we can respond is with laughter. He uses things we consider entirely ridiculous to advance His kingdom because then the thought of anyone but Him getting the credit doesn’t even get a chance to form.

After all, who would think of using a nonagenarian and a centenarian to birth the child who would be the spark of a nation? No one and that’s exactly the point. As God said as a question here and Gabriel phrased as a simple statement of fact when talking to Mary about her own laughably unlikely pregnancy, nothing is impossible for God.

Here’s the thing: God still works like this today. He still accomplishes His plans through people and situations we consider so unlikely that laughter is the only response that makes any sense. This is not a laugh of mockery, but of a joyfully faithful disbelief. This ridiculous activity on God’s part lies right at the heart of the Christmas story.

And because Christmas is built on this laughably unlikely power of God, because He is still the same God who works with the same power now that He did then, you can have the confidence that if He has called you to something that seems totally ridiculous in its shape and scope, He has the power to see you through it. Why? Because nothing is impossible for Him. It may not make any sense, but if you’ll trust Him, He will take you right through the crazy to the wonderful waiting on the other side of it.

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