A Dream Becomes History
Another Christmas is upon us and the birth of Christ is a familiar story to most. In fact, it’s so familiar it’s easy to arrow back and search the internet for something different. Don’t.
Christmas stirs my soul and spirit and I have to admit it’s not just because of Christ. I love putting up the lights and placing the ornaments one-by-one on the tree. Part of the “merry and bright,” is watching holiday movies and listening to Christmas music. There’s nothing quite like walking through a department store and hearing the name of Jesus over the loud speaker. But, I must admit, I also enjoy listening to Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Jingle Bell Rock. The music is part of the joy during the Christmas season. Nevertheless, I don’t want Christ’s birth to be so commonplace I fail to see the gift of Christ with fresh eyes.
One passage I’m guilty of skimming pertains to when God spoke to Joseph, who was pledged to marry Mary. Had it not been for Joseph’s God-dream, we wouldn’t have the story of the coming Messiah. Sadly, it’s a dream in the Bible that we tend to focus on only at Christmas. Take time to recognize how this dream in the night impacted the life of Joseph; and history.
Read Matthew 1:18-25:
Joseph didn’t understand what Mary was talking about when she told him she was pregnant through the Holy Spirit. When Joseph discovered she was pregnant, he planned to break off the engagement quietly. Before he could start orchestrating how to deal with the scandalous circumstances, God stepped in and “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.” Matthew 1:20
Through a dream, God provided Joseph with knowledge of the coming Messiah. Through an angel in the dream, the Lord gave him specific instructions to carry out. It was imperative Joseph do exactly what the Lord told him. It is because Joseph didn’t ignore a dream in the night that we have his side of the story and another historical confirmation of the birth of Christ.
Joseph’s dream of revelation, comfort, and instruction:
1. God prepared Joseph by sending an angel to speak to him specifically and personally in a dream.
2. He was comforted by the angel, “do not be afraid.”
3. He was given instructions to take Mary as his wife.
4. The angel informed him how Mary became pregnant (conceived by the Holy Spirit).
5. The angel told him the child would be a boy.
6. The angel told him to name the boy Jesus.
7. He was told that Jesus would save people from their sins.
Joseph woke up, took note, and did as the angel of the Lord instructed him to. Had Joseph dismissed God's message in the night, I wonder how the historical events of Christ's birth would have looked? We don't have to guess because Joseph took his God-dream seriously. He obeyed God’s instructions conveyed to him in a dream.
“When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.” Matthew 1:24-25
These important details in the Bible reinforce the need for us to hear God at all times. It would have been easy for Joseph to think this was “just a dream” and nothing more than his mind sorting through the concerns that plagued him during the day.
There have been many times I’ve had dreams that “appear” to be thoughts or events from the previous day or week. When scenes appear of this nature, they are easy for me to dismiss.
Oftentimes dreams are triggered by the activities in our lives, therefore, it’s easy to think they have no godly purpose. However, it’s from our daily experiences and what’s going on in our lives that God speaks to us in a dream that relates to us personally.
God wants to be part of the details of our day and sometimes what we think is "just a dream," is how God reaches into our lives as individuals. What Joseph was thinking, experiencing, and planning in the days leading up to the dream is what God used for Joseph to make sense of the real-life experiences taking place. God came to Joseph with a personal message and for something more important than himself.
Joseph had no idea what God had planned for him when he began to think through a way to break off the engagement with Mary. I believe Joseph’s faith and belief in God Almighty prepared his heart and spirit to hear God’s voice in the night. If I had to choose, I’d rather hear the voice of God in the night than man’s during the day.
Take time to read the beautiful story of Christ’s birth in Matthew 1 like you’ve never read it before. Don’t wait for a Christmas play or December 25 to read the story of Jesus. Make this story personal to you and expect God to speak to you with the same clarity he did to Joseph.
I also recommend reading the Biblical account of Christ's birth in different versions of the Bible. It gives us a different perspective and way of seeing this beautiful story. I specifically enjoyed reading it in The Message and PHILLIPS translations. (Matthew 1:18, 20, 24)
Pay attention to details of what was foretold and how God used dreams for the fulfillment of the prophecy. Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2.
How is the story of Jesus’s birth speaking personally to you this year?
I wish all of you a Merry Christmas as you celebrate CHRIST-mas. May your homes and your hearts be “merry and bright,” and filled with the incredible love and presence of our Lord and Savior.