“…but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit….“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.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”)….
“The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be calledthe Son of God…. For no word from God will ever fail….” (Matthew 1:18, 20-23; Luke 1:35, 37)
“O holy Child of Bethlehem; Descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin and enter in; Be born to us today.” (Philip Brooks)
Oh for a moment to be Mary!
Indeed this young woman was favored of the Lord as He chose her to become the vessel through whom Messiah would come into the world. We have a few hints as to what she may have experienced but really very few details are laid out. What an open door for this inquisitive mind. I wonder – what was it like to be visited by an angel, especially one as prominent as Gabriel? What did Mary experience as a child was conceived within her of the Holy Spirit? What would it have been like to be “overshadowed” by the power of the Most High?
Think of it – “overshadowed by the power of the Most High!” Selah – stop and listen.
I doubt seriously this was a passive occurrence; one in which she was only aware of after the pregnancy became evident. Any other time in Scripture where God directly invaded His chosen instrument there was a clear understanding and experience of His presence in their lives – the visitation of Abraham, a burning bush for Moses, a vision of the enthroned Lord high and lifted up by Isaiah….
So it was with Mary.
Though we don’t know the specifics of Mary’s overshadowing allow me to speculate a bit. The virgin conception and birth of Jesus is rich in meaning to the foundations of our faith. God becomes man and clearly pronounces the Lord’s desire to be intimate with His people – Emmanuel, God with us.
“Intimate!” Selah – stop and listen.
Paul recites this theme that had been broadcast multiple times in the Old Testament: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16b; Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 32:38; Ezekiel 37:27).
“Walk among them…!” Selah – stop and listen.
It should not surprise us that God would reveal Himself through the humiliation of becoming one of us – fully human. He could have come to us as He had done in the past by briefly taking the form of man and communicating His message for a given occasion. But in the coming of Messiah He chose to display His nearness in a much more tangible way. He chose conception. He chose a birth of the Spirit.
In human relations there is no greater expression of intimacy than the sexual union between a husband and a wife. There is no greater demonstration of vulnerability, oneness and love than the sexual union in marriage. Therefore it is not unexpected that God used a pregnancy to begin to reveal the ultimate intimacy He desires with all of us. I do not want to suggest that there was any kind of sexual behavior between God and Mary but we cannot miss the significance of God choosing to come to man through the “overshadowing” of this young woman. How could He have made it any clearer than through the “birth” of Jesus – the Son of God becoming a baby?
The overshadowing of Mary by the Holy Spirit is a picture of what the coming of Messiah means for us all. As followers of Christ we too have been enveloped by the Spirit and thereby are empowered to give birth to the fruits of the Spirit.
“… but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:6b-8).
“For we were all baptized (immersed, overshadowed) by one Spirit so as to form one body … and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Without our own personal overshadowing by God we would not be able to experience the things of the Spirit. But through the incarnation of Jesus into our world we now have access into the deep things of the Spirit. Merry Christmas indeed!
“However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2: 9-16).
So what is the significance of the incarnation of Messiah to my marriage? What does Christmas have to do with my bond to Robyn?
Because God is with us – Emmanuel – we now have the ability to love one another with a supernatural depth of knowing. We are now empowered to first see the incarnation of Jesus in one another and not the flesh. We find Him in the delights and doldrums of everyday human experience thus making every moment holy and sacred. We are roused to forgive in those moments when sin appears insurmountable and then call one another to return to Bethlehem. Because of the manifestation of God in the flesh – because of Christmas our union can live in the hope of a greater love tomorrow than today; a deeper peace and stillness and a joy magnified because He has become nearer to us than any earthly thing.
“We are the Lord’s servants,” Mark and Robyn answered. “May your word to us be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).
I guess we’re not that different from Mary after all.