What are you dreaming about this Christmas?

I’m guessing that if I asked you to tell me the Christmas story, you would tell it a lot like I would—complete with angelic annunciations, a journey to Bethlehem, shepherds and wisemen. When we tell the story like that, we blend together details from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. After all, Luke is mum about the wisemen and Matthew never mentions shepherds. I kind of like the tradition of blending the birth stories together, but sometimes it is important to read each story independently, as they were written.

This year throughout Advent and Christmas Sunday, we will focus our worship on Matthew’s version of the Christmas story and on Matthew’s lead character in his telling, Joseph, the husband of Mary. Joseph often gets left out of our storytelling. Sure, he is in all our nativity sets, but let’s be honest, he often blends into the background. While Luke gives us brilliant details about Mary, including her own words in the form of songs and prayers, nowhere do we find any words spoken by Joseph. Even Matthew who makes him the main character of the birth narrative never records a single word spoken by Joseph.

But we should not mistake silence for insignificance. Instead of a person breaking out in song and singing of God’s radical justice coming to be in the form of a baby, we find a person who dreams. Four times a messenger of God appears to Joseph in his dreams. Each time, Joseph actively responds to the dream. He dreams, and instead of divorcing Mary because of her pregnancy, he claims the child as his own. He dreams, and immediately awakes to gather his family and flee his nation and the tyranny of king who wants his son dead. He dreams twice, and safely settles his family in Nazareth.

New Testament scholar Susan Andrews says that in Matthew, “We meet Joseph the dreamer—a righteous man who trusts relationships rather than rules… an obedient man who responds to dreams rather than demands.” Joseph might kneel silently in our manger scenes, but he was a crucial part of God’s work to come into our world. He was a man close enough to God that he could trust his dreams and respond to those dreams with risky actions.

So I ask again, what are you dreaming about this Christmas? This is the time of year we often sing about dreams—“I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams,” “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas,” “The whole world needs a Christmas dream.” It’s a time of year when we think about sugar plums dancing in children’s dreams as we enjoy hearing them talk about their wishes. Those are good and fun dreams, but more importantly, as we join Joseph, I wonder what kind of Gospel dreams you are dreaming—for you and your family, for our church family at UBC. What does it mean to expect that God will shape our dreams.

Perhaps as we reflect on Joseph the dreamer, we too will be caught up in God’s dreams for our families, for the safety of the most vulnerable people in our world, for happy homes to share life within, for Emmanuel, God with us, to show up in our midst.

What are you dreaming about this Christmas?

Journeying Together,