Holy Spirit? Surely that has more to do with Pentecost doesn’t it? Most people when thinking of the Christmas story completely miss the point when it comes to Holy Spirit. But he (yes, Ruach Ha’kodesh is a he, not an it) played a vital role in our story, and without him, there would have been no virgin birth.
But before we look at that, let’s consider his activity in the lives of three people we’ve already looked at. The thing we generally tend to remember about Zachariah was how he doubted the words of the angel, and was struck dumb. But Luke tells us that when John was born and Zachariah had confirmed that he was to be called John, his tongue was loosed and he was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to prophesy. Yes, Zachariah had to be humbled and chastised by God, but afterwards he was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke one of the most powerful prophetic words over his son that is recorded in scripture. This was the Holy Spirit refining and correcting Zacharias before finally enabling him to prophesy.
His wife Elisabeth was also filled with the Holy Spirit when Miriam came to visit. The Spirit caused her to “cry out with a loud voice” – she prophesied over Miriam, proclaiming that she was carrying the long-awaited Messiah. Ruach Ha’kodesh filled Elisabeth with supernatural revelation, and she spoke words of comfort, encouragement and blessing which strengthened Miriam.
And John was unique among men in being filled with the Spirit even from the womb. This was an exceptional miracle – even before he was born he leapt in recognition of Yeshua. John’s life was lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, who empowered him from before birth for the task God had called him to.
Clearly, the Holy Spirit was moving powerfully in all the events surrounding the birth of Yeshua. His work caused people to leap for joy, sing praises to the Lord, and learn how to trust in God more fully. All of these people were changed by the Holy Spirit in one way or another. How can it be that the doubting Zachariah was filled with the Spirit? How can it be that the barren Elisabeth was able to conceive? How can it be that a six month old foetus can recognise the Messiah and leap for joy? It was through the power of the Holy Spirit!
But there is an even greater work of Ruach Ha’kadosh that we must turn our attention to now. The angel Gabri’el was sent to Miriam to tell her that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. The angels’ words, overwhelming as they were, formed a puzzled question in Miriam’s mind. She may have only been a young teenager, but she knew that for there to be a baby, there had to be a man involved! Miriam somehow understood that this was going to happen before she and Joseph consummated their marriage. She put the question to Gabri’el, “How can this be….?” The angel’s response gives away very little detail: so often God tells us what he is going to do, but doesn’t tell us how he is going to do it! His reply was simply, “The Holy Spirit will come to you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you”. That’s a somewhat curious expression, to overshadow. It is the same words as is used in the account of the transfiguration, and it invokes a sense of being enveloped, or filled with his presence. If you’ve ever been on a high hill or mountain, and the cloud has come down and surrounded you, you will have some idea of what overshadowing means.
We know that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of creativity; it was the same Spirit that “hovered over the face of the waters” in Genesis 1:2. He was hovering in anticipation of creation, and was intrinsically involved in the acts of creation that followed. But now, Gabri’el was announcing an unprecedented act of creativity: the fusion of the Spirit of God and a human egg. It may surprise you to know that there have been several “virgin births” recorded in science. A virgin birth can occur when a human egg spontaneously begins to develop in a woman’s womb; they are scientifically documented, but there is one factor that is common amongst them all: without exception, they all produced female babies. Spontaneous development of a human egg will always produce a female, so that cannot be what happened. Besides, there would then have been no overshadowing by the Holy Spirit, so the resulting child would have been only human in nature. No, it wasn’t that. So did the Holy Spirit create a complete foetus in Miriam’s womb? That’s entirely possible, but then Miriam would not have been his mother, she would have been a surrogate carrying someone else’s child, and Yeshua would not have been the Son of David; he had to have Miriam’s genes to be a descendant of David. There is only one other possibility: The Holy Spirit created a male seed with the DNA of God himself in it, which fertilised Miriam’s egg. That is the only way Yeshua could have been the son of Miriam (and therefore the son of David) and the son of God at the same time.
And so Yeshua’s gestation and birth would have been absolutely normal. The normal full term of about 38 weeks, and delivery in quite the normal way. The miracle that occurred here was at conception, not at birth.
Now, to me the biggest wonder is this: how could a human embryo contain all the fullness of God? It’s like taking one of those Giant Redwood trees, fully grown, and putting it in a little two inch flower pot, and somehow it works! I mean, Yeshua was fully God, he was the Word made flesh. As to his humanity, his development was quite normal – a collection of cells that grew and multiplied according to the pattern that was laid own – had been laid down since the creation of the first Adam. But in this one way he was different – completely different; the first Adam had the Ruach, the Breath of God, breathed into him and he became a living being. But this second Adam had the very essence of God as part of his very being as Ruach Ha’kodesh gave of his very self in the incarnation of the God-man. For that is who Yeshua is – the God-man: fully God and fully man; humanity and divinity forever wrapped in human flesh. So that is the mystery: how is it possible for a human body to contain all of who God is without being totally overwhelmed or exploding into a million fragments? Yeshua is one divine-human person in two natures (i.e., with two sets of capacities for experience, expression, action, and reaction); and that the two natures are united in his personal being without mixture, confusion, separation, or division; and that each nature retained its own attributes. In other words, all the qualities and powers that are in each of us, as well as all the qualities and powers that are in God, were, are, and ever will be actually and distinguishably present in the one person of the God-man.
And of course it doesn’t stop there – “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18) As we gaze on his beauty and glory, the Holy Spirit changes our nature and likeness to be like that of Yeshua.
It’s a powerful combination: the will of the Father, the love of the Son, the power of Ruach Ha’kodesh….