18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
The pirates have kidnapped Buttercup, who’s supposed to marry the prince! As they race along in their fast boat, they see someone has given chase. And he’s catching up! And the Vizzini, the one in charge of the pirates, shouts, “Inconceivable!” Yet, it was happening. When he saw that what he thought was inconceivable was true, Vizzini had to act.
The pirates attempt to escape by climbing the Cliffs of Madness. The pirates have the strongest man in the land. He carries the two other pirates and the princess up the cliffs. No other man could do that! But when the man in black, the one chasing them, climbs the rope the pirates had used, Vizzini shouts, “Inconceivable!” Yet, it was true. Vizzini has to act! He cuts the rope so the man in black has nothing to climb! But the man in black clings to the cliffs and climbs the rocks. How can this be? Vizzini once again cries out, “Inconceivable!”
At this, one of the pirates looks at their leader and says, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” Over and over again the man in black did something that Vizzini thought impossible. When he saw that the inconceivable had happened, he had to act.
We heard a little bit ago about something inconceivable: That Mary was pregnant, not the normal way, but through the Holy Spirit. She was pregnant, though still a virgin. And at this, Joseph, her fiancé, thought, “Inconceivable!” And when he thought that, an angel appeared to tell him, “It’s true, Joseph.” And when Joseph saw that the inconceivable was true… he was forced to act.
Let’s back up a moment. Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes. You love this woman. You want to marry her. You’ve dedicated yourself to building a new home for the two of you. You’re not even allowed to see her until you finish building this home. And then… you get word that your fiancé is pregnant. And you know it’s not yours! What’s your reaction? That’s grounds for breaking the engagement. And Joseph is planning to do that, but he doesn’t want to. He loves Mary. But she broke his trust. She cheated on him! So while Joseph is tossing this thought over and over in his mind, an angel shows up. In a dream.
The angel tells him something amazing. “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21) Mary was telling the truth. She didn’t cheat on Joseph. The baby was from the Holy Spirit! This little boy wasn’t just any boy. He was the Savior. And he’s not here as the Savior from poverty or persecution. He’s here as the Savior from sin.
Would you believe it? Would you trust a dream, or would you cry out, “Inconceivable!”? Well, God has told you a lot of inconceivable things. He told you that he became human in the form of a tiny infant. He told you he loved you even though you were sinful and hated him. He told you that he died for you. He told you that he rose to life to prove he had defeated sin, death, and the devil. What faith you have… comes from God. It is his gift to you. And it was his gift to Joseph, too.
Joseph heard the angel in his dream… and he accepted it. It was true! Mary hadn’t cheated on him! And that knowledge of the truth, that what he thought inconceivable was true, prompted him to act. Joseph got up and married his fiancé. Joseph believed the angel and it prompted him to act: He named the baby just what the angel told him. The Baby’s name was Jesus.
What about you? God has told you inconceivable things. Have those truths you believe changed your actions? God tells you he has removed your guilt as far as the east is from the west. Do you accept that inconceivable promise? If you do, it changes your heart. No more guilt! God tells you he’ll take care of you. Do you accept this inconceivable promise? If you do, it changes your actions. It means no more worry.
Or, even though you know the inconceivable is true, does it not affect you? That would be like Joseph saying, “Well, Mary didn’t cheat on me. I trust the angel was right. But I’m not going to go and marry her.” The first commandment says we must “Fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” And if we trust God… that includes trusting the inconceivable things he’s told us. And that trust prompts actions that show that trust. It means not worrying. Trusting that God has removed your guilt, so that guilt is gone.
We’ve failed in trusting God the way we should. But you know what? Go back to Joseph’s dream. What did the angel say about this baby that was going to be born? She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21) Jesus came to do the inconceivable: To save us from our sins. He came to release us from our guilt. And it started when he became a child. He came to do the inconceivable in your life: He has removed your guilt. He has saved you from your sins.
Knowing that God promises to do the inconceivable and that he keeps his promises changes us. We react, just like Joseph did. We trust those promises… and that trust brings actions.
God does the inconceivable for you this Christmas. He becomes one of us. He becomes Immanuel to save us from our sins. When others look at what you believe and shout, “Inconceivable!” you can respond, “That word doesn’t mean what you think it means when it comes to God. For nothing is inconceivable with God!” Trust God’s inconceivable promises, as Joseph did. And that trust will change your actions. Let go of worry this Christmas. The God who did the inconceivable to save you from your sins will continue to do the inconceivable in your life – to keep every one of his inconceivable promises.
Though not written in the manuscript, when I delivered this sermon I did give credit for the illustration to the movie The Princess Bride. It was fun watching the congregation to see who knew the movie and who didn’t. There was definitely a different expression on people’s faces depending on their familiarity with the scenes.