Christmas candle Palmer

“He can’t possibly use me!  I’m too old.  I had my shot.”

I rarely hear those words, but I feel it from friends.  Their bodies tell them they are getting older.  They have passed their prime at work.  Retirement is here or it is looming.  Transition is or will be happening.  Younger men are taking over the leadership of their company, their church, their everything.

“I’m too old.  He can’t possibly use me.  What do I have to give?”  More on this in a moment.

On the other hand, I also sense this…

“He can’t possibly use me!  I’m too young.   What do I know?  I don’t have the time or the experience.”

I rarely hear these words, but I see the hesitation.  Their lives are so full – young children, careers that require so much, marriages that are being built.  “Will you lead a small group?  Teach a class?  Look for ways to share your faith at work?”

“I am not old enough.  I am not qualified.  He can’t possibly use me!”

In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel visits two people – Zechariah and Mary.  Elizabeth, Zach’s wife, and Mary are cousins, but so very different.

Zach and Elizabeth are both old.  She has no children and has lived with the disgrace that comes from that for many years. Having a child seems like an impossibility.  Their best days are behind them.  They have served faithfully in their limited way, but their useful days are past.

At least that’s what Zach believed.  When told that they were to have a child and that their child would “be filled with the Holy Spirit (and) will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God,” he quizzically asked the angel Gabriel – “How can I be sure of this?”  I think he really said, “Come on, really?  You don’t mean that, do you?”

He was too old.  They were too old.  He was past the point of God using him and using them.

On the other hand, Mary wasn’t even married and hadn’t even had sex.  But Gabriel told her she would have a child.  Now how could that be?  How could God use a virgin teenager to birth the Savior of the world.  She wasn’t old enough, wise enough.  But more importantly, she didn’t even have a human partner yet.  But she did have a divine one.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Surely Mary was unqualified to be used.  Too young. Unmarried.  A virgin.

Surely Elizabeth and Zach were unqualified to be used.  Too old. Post-menopausal.  Tired.

But as the angel said, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.”  And then my favorite words… Luke 1:37 – “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Nothing will be impossible.  In fact, most often God’s first choice is to use the unqualified, the unlikely.   Are you too old?  Past your prime?  Feeling washed up?  Then you are ready!

Are you too young?  Too busy?  Too new in the faith?  Feeling overwhelmed and inadequate?  Then God has a plan for you.

Because His plan is to use the very people who know they are unqualified, so that everyone involved will know it was Him!  Merry Christmas… and get ready to be used!



Palmer Trice

Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister.  He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.

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