I called her mother or mum, but she had been named Miriam after the older sister of Moses and Aaron. I loved it when she sang as she was sweeping the floor "Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea (Exodus 15:20-21). We had always been very close, but she knew Joseph had talked to me about the traumatic events before I was born. And I could see she was keeping her distance to avoid the embarrassment of sharing with me too deeply.
A few weeks after my father's funeral I decided to ask her a direct question. "How did you know I was conceived by the Holy Spirit?" (Luke 1:35). She explained that she had never been able to pray to God as Father after her own father had beaten her mercilessly in a drunken rage. But she loved the first nine chapters of the Book of Proverbs, which her mother had copied,and read to her from time to time. There wisdom was pictured as Sophia. "Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars . . . She has sent out her servant girls, she calls from the highest place in the town."
Her invitation was very appealing : "You that are simple, turn in here . . . Come, eat of my bread and drink the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight." She guessed that Sophia was the creative Spirit, the Wind of God, that had empowered the prophets. And since her early teens she had prayed to her. I liked that.
My mother then went on to explain that when she began to find boys attractive she learned to distinguish between the voice of the Spirit and the equally strong voice of her feelings. Many of the local boys, and some from out of town, had tried to get her out for a walk in the woods. But she was convinced that what Sophia had in mind for her was infinitely more wonderful.
Sure enough her parents arranged a marriage for her with Joseph, a reliable good looking fellow who had come from Bethlehem to work as a carpenter on the new buildings in Nazareth. The betrothal contract was signed and sealed before witnesses in the spring, and she was looking forward to the marriage celebration in the fall (Matthew 1:18).
But then the angel Gabriel appeared, greeted her, and announced both good news and very disturbing news. The Holy Spirit was going to create a body for the Messiah in her womb ( Luke 1:26-38). That sounded wonderful. Every Jewish woman has hoped she might be the mother of the Messiah. But this was something else. "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the powerful of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). That could only mean that Joseph would not be involved. She would be pregnant without being married, and he would terminate the betrothal arrangement. That was unthinkable and very embarrassing. So my mother decided to leave town immediately and go far away to the hills of Judea to discuss the situation with her cousin Elizabeth.
Instead of being shocked, Elizabeth who was way past child bearing, announced the Holy Spirit had also done the unthinkable in her and she was now six months pregnant. And my mother found herself singing a song. "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."
I asked her what happened next? "Oh I stayed with Elizabeth till her baby was born, and I came home to Nazareth very obviously pregnant. Then all hell broke loose among the neighbors (Matthew 1:18). But I had got used to Sophia doing things in her strange quirky ways, and I quietly wondered what she would do next. Sure enough Joseph walked in early in the morning, gave me a big hug, and told us that God had sent a messenger telling him to take me home as his wife (Matthew 1:18-25).
I asked her to sing the song the Holy Spirit gave her in Elizabeth's home. "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty." I often asked her to sing that song when things got heavy going.
Then she abruptly changed the subject. "It's time you got married. Why don't we arrange to have you betrothed to that sweet girl, Esther? Her parents are very good people." I agreed I liked her very much, but I wondered if Sophia had something else in mind for me. "How can I tell whether it is my own instincts and feelings that are driving me, or the wind of the Spirit?"
Then she remembered what the angel had said to her about me before I was conceived. "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David" (Luke 1:35). She agreed with me it wasn't a light thing to be the Messiah, and whoever heard of the Messiah being married?
It turned out that Esther was soon betrothed to a solid fellow with his feet on the ground. I was already viewed as being too heavenly minded to be much good as a husband. So the girls stopped bothering with me, and I stayed on at home in Nazareth for the next fifteen years. Slowly I learned to distinguish between setting my mind on the Spirit, and setting my mind on the instincts that craved for my attention (Romans 8:5-6). I was often tempted to be impatient (Hebrews 4:15). And every year when we went up to Jerusalem for Passover I imagined it would now be time to begin my life work.
Chapter 3 .....