The story we have (in Luke) goes like this:
Mary was a virgin. Elizabeth was beyond child-bearing years. Neither had any business giving birth.
Zechariah found it impossible, too, despite getting the news directly from an angel in the Temple. He lost his voice for questioning what God can do.
Mary, too, questioned Gabriel, but she didn't get the sentence of silence that Zechariah got. Perhaps her youth spared her or his status as a priest should have made him more receptive to angels appearing.
And honestly, I have to wonder about people who are being addressed by an angel and then question what they're being told. The angel appearing made perfect sense, the message did not.
Still, here's what the story tells us---the virgin and the post-menopausal both give birth. It's a recurring theme throughout the Hebrew scriptures, too, particularly the "barren" giving birth. The whole Jewish religion begins with such a story in Sarah.
But because I'm in a warning sort of mood this Christmas, I can't help but notice and point out that both of this boys, Elizabeth's and Mary's impossible children, they come to sad, cruel ends at the hands of powerful people. In most stories, told from the perspective of the powerful, these endings would be all there is to it.
Fast forward some 20 centuries and you have powerful people claiming the stories of John and Jesus as their own. They find no irony in claiming to be followers of Jesus while acting like Herod and Pilate.They take the impossible and turn it into the mundane, the banal.
We have to remember the impossible work of God. It is work that upends our ideal of what makes sense and what the natural order of things should be. It becomes stories that are first squashed and then co-opted by the powerful. They result in obscure wilderness preachers being remembered for centuries even as we remember the rulers of the time only for the way they opposed the preachers.
The impossible has it's consequences, but it is the way of God. We lose our way when we forget it.