Sunday, December 21, 2014

Advent Day 22

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 fulfil 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. – Matthew 1:18-25
There are always two sides to every story. We are certainly familiar with Mary’s but Joseph has a story too, a story of a man who desperately wanted to do the right thing but who isn’t sure just what that right thing was. Mary had returned from her three-month stay with her cousin Elizabeth but she was different, changed somehow. It must have been a horrible shock to him to learn that his virgin wife was already pregnant – and for certain it wasn’t his. What to do, what to do?
He would be perfectly within his rights to divorce her and find a new and unencumbered bride. He finally decided on divorce as the best option and, shortly after his decision was made, Joseph fell asleep. As happens more than occasionally, another and better answer came to him in a dream. God told him he was to continue on with Mary because she had been singled out for a special mission and he would have a part in it. The rest, as they say, is history.
Quite often when we are in a quandary and can’t seem to come to any conclusion or make any decision, we sort of “sleep on it,” as the saying goes. We are told that the brain keeps working while our bodies sleep, processing information, filing it, maybe even examining it and coming to some sort of resolution which will be presented to us in a dream and will influence our thinking when we awaken. Sometimes, though, it is more than just the brain staying busy; I have a feeling that when we are asleep, it could be the only time we are still enough for God to get a word in edgewise.
Not all dreams will be answers to our questions and quandaries, but they very well could be. There have been times when I’m sure God must have had a hand in because suddenly something had a clarity I couldn’t achieve with my hamster brain doing endless circles and getting nowhere. It’s quite a realization that sometimes just letting go of something is the surest way to get a handle on it, even if it means simply taking a nap.
Perhaps something to practice in the waning days of Advent is to add a small petition to the nightly prayers, asking God to show us what we need to see or understand as we sleep. Maybe it won’t be something life-altering or earth-shattering like Joseph’s dream, but maybe, just maybe, it could be important. 

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