Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a 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 Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Joseph had a dream. In the first century middle east, if you remembered a dream you paid close attention to it. Many at the time believed that it was the spirit world making contact and giving direction to us mortals. Some of us believe that today. I am one of those believers.
You all know the story A Christmas Carol. My favorite is the George C. Scott version and I would guess you all have a favorite as well. Ebeneezer Scrooge did not believe his spirit visitors at first. He thought at first it must have been something he ate. However, by the third visit he became a believer and he made a resolution to change his ways.
I have never had a Christmas Carol kind of dream but I do believe I have been contacted by someone in my dreams. One of them I will share with you.
First, let me give you a little back story. As a teenager I had issues with my parents, especially my mother. She was an alcoholic and had also spent time in mental institutions. I did not live with her but we kept in frequent contact. The last time I spoke to her she called me while I was at my dad's farm and asked me if I was going to a family picnic planned for residents at Mt. Pleasant. I told her I didn't think I could make it and she said that was OK since she was being released before the picnic was to take place. A week later, we had just finished putting up a load of hay and I was walking up to the house for a drink when I saw the county sheriff drive up the lane. He got out of his car and grimly told me mom had died in a single car accident. This was the final tragedy in a life full of tragedies.
I remember being very angry with my mom because apparently she had been drinking again and she had driven off the road and hit a cement culvert. At the same time I felt guilty that I maybe had not done enough to help her. I didn't let go of either of those feelings, the anger and the guilt, for over a decade.
Then one night I had a dream. In the dream I saw my mother off in the distance. I started walking toward her and she walked toward me. Neither of us said anything and when we reached each other we hugged. Then I woke up. It felt like all of that anger and guilt had washed away and had been replaced by love.
I believe she came to me that night. I have had other similar dreams with other people who were an important part of my life. I believe that when we sleep the barrier that separates us mortals from the spirit world becomes easier to penetrate. I believe Joseph did receive a visit that night two thousand years ago. I believe in the Christmas story.
Last year I attended a workshop on dreams at the clergy summer retreat and school in Grinnell. The six or eight of us at the workshop shared our dreams and it was fun hearing and making attempts to unravel the mystery behind some of them. I think sometimes dreams are just dreams. It could be a bad potato for supper as Ebeneezer had suspected but...at other times it could be a profound connection that needs our attention. So.....dream on .