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)
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