Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Because of a Dream
There were 28 generations between Joseph and his illustrious ancestor, King David.
But when a family can trace its lineage back to someone like David, it is certainly a topic
brought up in conversations at family reunions.
Since he was a little boy, Joseph had known that he was a descendant of David and Solomon
and all the early kings of his people.
It was the kind of thing little boys dreamed about in their dreams.
Joseph had probably been a dreamer all his life.
It may have been why he was such a good carpenter; creative people tend to be dreamers.
The whole village of Nazareth knew Joseph by his carpentry;
so famous a carpenter was he that his son would later be called, son of the carpenter.
Now he was in a particularly difficult situation.
A celebrated and well-known craftsman of the community, Joseph had to decide what to do
about a very serious problem.
He had been engaged to the young girl, Mary for a while.
As was the tradition in Jewish culture, the engagement was binding; but the couple would not live together; certainly not have sex with one another until they were married.
But just today word had come from Mary’s house-hold that she was pregnant.
Joseph had to decide what to do.
The Jewish law gave him the right not only to divorce her but he had the right to publicly shame her and her
family by announcing the shame to the whole village.
He decided that would be too much.
He would break the engagement without exposing her and then get on with his life with someone else at a future date.
Mind made up; Joseph went to sleep. And he dreamed.
Joseph had had some pretty unusual dreams during his lifetime but this one was the
strangest and yet the clearest one he had ever had.
An angel of God appeared to him in this dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the child conceived in her…..
is from the Holy Spirit.
She will bear a son, and you are to name him Yeshua,
for he will save his people from their sins.”
The prophet Joel told his people that, when the Spirit of the Lord came to them,
their young ones would have visions and their old ones would have dreams.
Joseph had had lots of visions.
He envisioned a happy, stable life in Nazareth where he would be known for his master craftsmanship.
Perhaps the whole of Galilee would come to him for his carpentry.
And perhaps he would have a son or two who would keep the family business going.
He had visions. And he had dreams also.
But up until now, his dreams were always vague and drowsy. This dream was different.
This dream was so clear to him that, when he woke up in the morning, it was the only thing he could think about.
He knew, somehow without any doubt, that this was what he had to do.
He had to go through with the marriage.
He had to name her son Jesus.
It was not just a dream but a command from God.
The Spirit of the Lord had come to him; he just knew it!
So he did exactly what he had been told to do in the dream.
The next story in Matthew’s Gospel is about the visit of the Magi.
It is only from Luke’s Gospel that we hear how it was that Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth
down to Bethlehem.
Luke’s Gospel tells the story of Jesus’ birth and the story-telling shepherds and the chorus of angels.
It is interesting that what Matthew seems to focus on in his story of the birth of the Messiah is his
Name, or rather his Names.
Meshiach– Messiah – the anointed one, the promised one.
Ben-David- Son of David – someone to claim the Davidic throne.
Yeshua– Jesus – Savior
And finally, Emmanuel – God-with-us.
In fact, all the other readings for this Fourth Sunday in Advent pick up on those names.
The prophet Isaiah tells Joseph’s ancestor, Ahaz that this king’s problems will be
solved when a young woman bears a son named Immanuel.
Before that child can decide between good and evil, the two foreign kings
Ahaz is worried about will no longer cause him dread.
In Paul’s introduction to the letter to the Roman church, he recalls Jesus as the descendant of David
and the Lord of life by the spirit of holiness through his Resurrection.
Jesus, Savior; anointed Son of David; is finally Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Joseph had never before even allowed himself to envision such a son; the very being of God born in his sight.
What would follow?
What kind of responsibilities would he have towards this Son of God, this Immanuel.
How could he raise a child who was also his God?
I think that the reason Matthew gives us this account of Jesus’ birth is because he wants us to ask
those same questions of ourselves.
Sometimes we have visions of what life should be like for us.
We make plans. We do our best to carry out those plans so that our visions can come true.
We acknowledge the obstacles of life and either conquer them or find a way to accept them.
And late in life, we examine what we have done with our lives and smile or laugh at those things that we like to remember;
or we choose to forget those things that hurt or we allow them to hurt us over and over again.
But what about our dreams?
It is in the realm of dreams that the Spirit of God influences our lives.
For, you see, God comes to us as one unknown; a breath unseen, unheard.
God comes to us to dwell with us; to be a part of our very being.
It is in the deepest part of our own existence that God influences our lives.
God comes in the stillness of the night; in the movement of water’s waves and the fall of snowflakes.
As we receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion, God is with us
in the cells of our flesh and the pulses of the blood which flow from our hearts.
God is with us as we take ourselves to lonely places and stare up at twinkling stars.
God comes to us in the beauty of visual arts and music and dance.
And God is with us every time we fall in love or are loved by another.
Every time we are inspired, we are en-Spirited.
Every time we know something is true and sound and cannot change, God is with us.
This is how Joseph was able to take his beloved Mary on that long journey to Bethlehem.
This is how Joseph was able to receive the gazing shepherds and the worshipping magi.
This is how Joseph was able to hurry his family to safety in Egypt out of King Herod’s rage.
This is how Joseph could become a husband to a God-bearer and a father to the Son of God.
All he had to do was believe in his dreams; have faith that God was with him; and love his family
with his whole heart.
This is how we can meet the hardest times of life.
Like Joseph, we believe the unbelievable; have faith in our God-with-us; and love the family God places around us.
God comes to us as one unknown;
as though within a shriveled seed sown in darkness; a pulse of being stirs.
God comes to us and dwells with us now and forever.
Just listen. Just look. Just believe. Just love.