They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.” Genesis 18:9-15
Now it’s time for the big news. Abraham and Sarah are to have a child within a year. Against all odds, having long since let go of the hope, suddenly they are surprised by the promise that it is going to happen.
They laugh. (I laugh a little too at this story as it ends with Sarah and Abraham arguing about whether or not Sarah laughed. They must be in love.)
I wonder how much hope this little story has brought to people through the years. Not simply those hoping one day to have a child but to all who find themselves up against incredible odds, clinging to the possibility that God might have a good surprise in store for them.
This promise, by the way, comes straight from the top. One of the three strangers delivering the news comes out of hiding in the narration – The Lord said to Abraham…
Christians have often read back into this story, seeing the three strangers as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Of course we would see that as our conception of God is the mystery of the Trinity. Far more likely, this seems to follow the tradition that something isn’t true unless backed up by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
How ever we see this story, can’t we just for a second take off our critical thinking caps and just enjoy the image of an overwhelmed couple, long past the age for having children, laughing with joy at the possibility?
Are we willing to believe that God could do something marvelous and unexpected in our lives?
Let us pray: Dear Lord, we celebrate this morning the joy and expectancy that is ours as we seek to see you in the normalcy of our lives. Keep us open to being surprised. Give us hope where there is no hope. Let our prayer be laughter. In Jesus’ name. Amen.