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Christmas Dreams

Matthew 1:20


I've titled this morning's message, Christmas Dreams. As I announce the title, can you hear Bing Crosby singing, "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas" in the back of your mind? What are Christmas dreams made of? Does your dream involve a particular family tradition? Do you think of Christmases past or of a yet unrealized ideal Christmas? Some of our Christmas dreams remain the same year after year. A recent poll showed that 58% of us would be happy to get "world peace" for Christmas (Newsweek, December 8, 2003, p. 12), something we'll never fully realize this side of heaven.

A few weeks ago, Jamie was otherwise occupied and Susan had to work late, so I found myself with an evening by myself. So I sat down in my favorite reading area in our home and opened my favorite book to read the Christmas narrative from Matthew's and Luke's gospel. I wasn't reading for sermon preparation, or even for bible study, I was just reading for the sheer pleasure of reading the Christmas story.

I didn't get five minutes into my reading until a word began leaping from the pages: "dream." On several occasions, God spoke through people's dreams. I paused from my reading for a moment to think about dreams as a form of communication.

To Freud, a dream is a "wish fulfillment." To others, they are an important piece of information surfacing through the clutter of the subconscious mind. In both instances, dreams are surfacing from the subconscious mind into a state of consciousness. But in the Christmas narrative the source wasn't the subconscious mind, it was God. Dreams were one way God communicated his will to key people in the story. Matthew 1:20 says, "But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.'" (NASB)

What a dream! Joseph had discovered that Mary was pregnant and was going to "put her away" as the law prescribed. He was going to do exactly what any self-respecting man would do. But in the middle of the night, an angel came to him in his dream with startling news. Mary was the one. She was God's instrument, His chosen vessel that would give birth to God's son.

Now that's a dream! It sure beats dreaming about snow, bells, mistletoes or family traditions. How long do you think it took for Joseph to awaken after this dream? The scripture doesn't say, but I don't imagine it was very long. What I know for sure was what his reaction was. He did exactly what he was told to do.

This was the only pre-birth dream. Angels made other announcements to key players in this drama while they were awake, but this was the only dream before Christmas Day, but it wasn't the only dream. God communicated to people four more times through dreams. He warned the wise men in Matthew 2:12 "And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way." (NASB)

He warned Joseph to go to Egypt in Matthew 2:13 "Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, 'Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.'" (NASB)

God called Joseph back out of Egypt in Matthew 2:19-20, "But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, [20] 'Arise and take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead.'" (NASB) And directed him to Galilee in Matthew 2:22-23, "But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he departed for the regions of Galilee, [23] and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene." (NASB)

I thought about these passages of scripture for a while, thinking about the significance of the form of communication God used in these passages to communicate to the wise men and Joseph. Actually, I don't find any real significance other than to say that people in the Ancient Near East took dreams very seriously and often acted upon them. God was communicating to them through a medium that they took seriously. The form of communication wasn't as important as the communication itself.

But with that said, I spent the rest of that quiet evening thinking about my Christmas dreams.

In an editorial for sunstar.com, an online newspaper originating from the Philippines, Rene Lizada writes, "Look at how we celebrate Christmas. We equate Christmas with bonuses, food, celebrations, shopping malls, sales and all sorts of merrymaking. We are so focused in buying Christmas lights, wreaths and garlands. We dream of sleigh rides (as if we had snow), clothes, the right noche buena, vacations, Christmas bazaars and all the other externals that come with Christmas."(http://www.freshministry.org/illusrations.html)

I know that Ms Lizada's opinion is a common one, but it doesn't come close to capture what my Christmas dreams are, and if I know you as well as I think I do, what your Christmas dreams are too. The things she mentions aren't my dreams-they are a given. Celebrations, gifts, food, festivities have been a part of every Christmas I've ever had. What I'm dreaming of can't be purchased, organized, or made. I'm not dreaming of a White Christmas or a perfect holiday. My dream is that somehow the good news can get past my familiarity with the story and startle me. With Mary, I want to "ponder these things" in my heart. With Zachariah I want to be speechless as the miracle unfolds. With Simeon, I want to "see God's Salvation" and knew what I'm looking at.

Parties, presents and vacations are easy. I want the miracle. I'm dreaming of the spirit of the first Christmas. I want to be shocked by the news that God became man. I want to get past my familiarity with the story and my preconceived notions of what I think I know. I'm dreaming of a Christmas where I'm shocked and mystified by God's love. I want it for me. I want it for you. Listen as I read, Luke 2:8-19. Listen with fresh ears, "And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. [9] And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. [10] And the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; [11] for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. [12] And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.' [13] And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, [14] 'Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.' [15] And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, 'Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.' [16] And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. [17] And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. [18] And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. [19] But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart." (NASB)

Glory to God! He is born. God became man and dwelt among us.

Pleasant dreams.

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