The “holy spirit” in Matthew 1:18-25

“Holy Spirit” is used first in verse 18 and then again in verse 20. And I want to contend that if you aren’t paying attention — by which I mean reading it out loud and trying to bring the words to life — then you are going to be puzzled.

I say this because I was puzzled. ha!

The Angel of the Lord appears to tell Joseph that everything’s okay because the baby has been conceived by the holy spirit. But verse 18 says that too — doesn’t he know this already? Didn’t Mary claim that? Isn’t everyone starting to talk about it?

“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph but before they lived together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.”

“…But … an angel of the Lord appeared to him …. and said, “…for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

To make sense, the first Holy Spirit must said with scorn. What a little lying liar this loose girl Mary is, to make such a claim when caught in “trouble”! Did ya hear about Mary?

The second “Holy Spirit” — especially being spoken by an Angel — needs to be said with the full height and depth and breath of amazement and wonder and glory and honor and love and hope that a real act of the Holy Spirit would create. An Angel spoke to Joseph. And Angel confirmed Mary’s claim that her child was from the Holy Spirit — that God is the father of her child. WHEW. This is big. This is astonishing.

So the tone difference, the voice, the body — all needs to come into play in two different ways. The first one is easy. The second one is harder. I’ve been experimenting with holding my hands straight up, tilting my head back — but that’s a little theatrical for me.

Often to invoke the Holy Spirit in a storytelling what I have been doing is blowing a breath (or a wind) out of my mouth, “spreading” it with one of my hand. What I want people to remember, however, is God’s creation of the world, way back there in Genesis: “…a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” A breath/a wind from God started everything off. And then later in Genesis, God breaths into Adam to start us up: “…and [God] breathed into his [Adam’s] nostrils the breathe of life.” I seem to visualize the Holy Spirit part of God as a wind, a breathe, perhaps a song. I love it when a text in one place echoes back to another and they seem to fit together somehow.

So I will try to say the second Holy Spirit as solemnly as possible as well as with delight and joy and then I will pause to breathe, and to let the holy be breathed in.

To close with a bit of a ramble: Breath, wind, holy spirit, miracles, creation — I remember holding my newborn all those years ago and feeling the most intense love, more intense than I could have ever imagined. I didn’t know I had that much love in me. And so how much more then, does God love?holyspirtlightwind



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