The angel said to Mary, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.
The Creed refers strangely to two participants in a drama we more usually encounter in wintry Advent rather than in July! Stranger yet is the faith required to believe, for, familiar as the terms ‘Holy Spirit’ and “Virgin Mary’ are, it is worth considering seriously for these terms challenge credibility.
God’s Spirit is widely invoked throughout the Hebrew Scriptures commencing even as early Genesis 1:2 when “a wind from God (or ‘the Spirit of God’) swept over the face of the waters,” and initiated an incredible act of creation. The Hebrew is ‘Ruach’ which confusingly, and delightfully, means both “Spirit’ and ‘Wind,” just as the Greek ‘Pneuma,’ used in the New Testament. Thus they imply a nebulous quality to God’s presence so that, despite our best efforts, we we will never be able to pin down and control the Spirit of God. It is tough, almost impossible even, to believe in such a vague and un-pin-down-able concept.
This is not as hard, however, as believing in the pregnancy of a young maiden whilst she manages to continue to maintain her virginity. And yet, that is precisely what the text implies (even if theologians with far higher academic qualifications that I shall ever gain do sometimes argue against such a reading). But that is how I read it – a young lady somehow with child not caused by her fiancé nor by a dalliance with one of the local village boys. To me it is not about the conception being ‘immaculate’ i.e. without stain or sin for surely none of us seriously consider our own ‘normal / natural’ conception to be as a result of an act of sin? It is surely much more about the miracle and the impossibility of this happening?
So an impossible concept of God and an impossible miracle summarised in twelve words? And yet, impossibly, we and countless Christians over the years have done and continue to believe it still!
Impossible God, who is God of the Impossible, fill us this day with your Spirit of wholeness your Spirit of fullness your Spirit of completeness, and conceive in us the way to express your love your presence your promise, this day and every day. Amen
The Rev’d Peter Clark is Minister of the Bridport & Dorchester Joint Pastorate.