“The Holy Spirit will come on you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…” (Luke 1:35)
When I was a child, I heard my pastor say that there was only one immaculate conception. He was talking to a room of teenagers, at least, he is in my memory. He was probably answering a question about sex from some snarky kid who wanted to raise theologically precise questions. It could’ve been me he was answering. Of course, my brain could be making up the whole story since I do make things up from time to time.
I do remember him saying this though: There was only one immaculate conception. I think the reason for God’s fine selection to have “only one” Mary was not so much to preserve the wonderful sacredness of the first coming of Jesus. I do know that that had to be important. Jesus would only come once.
But I think God chose only one Mary for that one occasion to esteem the extremely high value that God has for sex. Well, I should say God’s extremely high value for human touch in general and sex in particular.
I don’t think God really wanted people making and carrying babies because of some invisible action on the Holy Spirit’s part. I think God wanted people to have sex and not just once. I should say that I don’t know what it meant for the Holy Spirit to overshadow Mary. I probably should restrict my imagination for fear of offending some of you.
That aside, I think God wanted to lift this sacred coming, this incarnation, as a way in which God comes but not as the only way. To be clear, this coming was the initial and free-standing and singular event where God would be en-fleshed. But I’m also a follower of Jesus who really really believes that Jesus finds a way to live in us. I really believe that God resides in us, though if you asked me for my best explanation, you’d probably find it mild.
I think that God comes in many grace-filled moments and in many grace-filled ways. And I think that Mary’s moment was exceptional and necessarily so. But I also believe that God arrives in our lives through the regular and common and sometimes uninteresting activity of human intercourse. Not only sexual but certainly not excluding it. I think that God’s normal way to arrive in our lives is through our lives.
A wise woman told me that “we’re all God has” when it comes to how God works. God has us and God chooses to use what God has in us. Our touches, our gazes, our meals, our poetry and art, our conversations, our fights, our friendships, and our hugs: We’re all God has.
I wonder if that raises the level of import of what we’d call normal. I wonder if touching and kissing and changing diapers can be charged with divinity after Mary’s “more pristine” conception. I wonder if every act is potentially bursting forth, potentially a place or a gesture where the Holy Spirit might overshadow the world with another bit of Christ.
It seems that any touch, any gesture could be filled with this Spirit. Again, not to replace the singular event of Jesus’s birth but to co-create with God, to offer another opportunity for God to meet us in terrestrial ways. Handshakes and hugs fill our lives. Words offered may become words from God. Words not offered may rob us of the same.
May God give us the ability to pay attention, to turn to one another in creative love, and to reach out and in doing so, spread goodness and grace.