Pentecost is hardly subtle or quiet. The gift and work of the Holy Spirit is demonstrated with all the energy and boisterousness that one would expect from a room full of blokes suddenly tanked up on pure distilled divinity. From this in-spirited explosion of grace the good news of God's love in Jesus bursts across the ancient world like a shockwave of hope.
But somewhere close by, out of sight in the shadows, there is a memory of a quieter, gentler, yet no less profound work of the Holy Spirit. Mary was blessed and her pregnancy was hallowed within the creative purposes of God. Such hallowing, or making sacred, seems to me to be much more typical of the love-making presence of the Spirit deep down in the everyday, ordinary stuff of our lives than the pyrotechnics of Pentecost. Hallowing is often a quieter and less outwardly dramatic affair than the day when the disciples were energized by God, such as one's heart being 'strangely warmed' as was the case for John Wesley, yet it is felt and experienced no less intensely by those whom the Spirit indwells.
It is this gentle, intimate hallowing that comes to my mind when I read St John's story of Jesus breathing the gift of the Spirit into his friends on Easter day.
Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:21-22)
And of course all these different understandings and portrayals are valuable and necessary to our faith. As the birthday of the church it is right and proper that we collectively celebrate Pentecost with much joy and energy, as that is what this outpouring of God's love is all about. And in the midst of this it is also good to recall those gentler, inconspicuous and highly personal times of hallowing too. Such experiences are the continuing gift of hidden Pentecost.