Thursday, December 23, 2010

Matthew 1:18-25

Joseph's Crazy Dream
24 December 2010

READ -- Matthew 1:18-19
“This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.” (NLT)

Joseph’s Crazy Dream -- PROLOGUE

There are a least three types of dreaming that we do.

Martin Luther King, Jr demonstrated the first with his “I Have a Dream” speech.

"I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:

"'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

This kind of dreaming happens while we’re fully awake -- and it involves envisioning a better future.

The second type of dreaming occurs while we’re sleeping -- typically about two hours per night during the REM stage. This is the time when the most random events and people show up in the most unexpected places. Weirdness is prevalent -- running but never arriving -- and at the end realizing that you’ve been naked the whole time. Sometimes such dreams are quite scary.

The best way to explain these dreams is to say that they are the equivalent to the disk defragmentation that you do on your hard drive. Little bits of random information are moved around and reorganized so that they are stored in an appropriate configuration -- unlike your hard drive, though, not necessarily the most efficient position for access in the brain but slotted and linked in a way that protects our minds from overload and insanity. And occasionally solving a problem over which we’ve been noodling.

The third type of dreaming is -- perhaps well described as mystical -- or even better yet, as mystery. Divine messages or insights doing end-runs around the clutter of our consciousness -- breaking through to get our full and undivided attention.

While this is not as common in the detached and calculated scientific West -- dream messages occur quite often in other parts of the world. It’s happening around the world -- even today.
A radical Egyptian terrorist has a dream in which Jesus speaks to him and quite suddenly his heart is changed and he is transformed into a follower.

There are similar stories from Indonesia, India, and Bangladesh. common stories.

The churches in Iran are bulging with converts who have had a dream encounter with Jesus.
Don’t ask me to explain it. I have no explanation. It’s a mystery.

And there are times when our dreams collide with each other -- the mysterious swerves into the pathway of the REM dream -- and results in a vertigo that flips our personal dreams -- a divinely orchestrated twilight zone that stands life on its head.

SONG -- O Little Town of Bethlehem

READ -- Matthew 1:20-23

“As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

“All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’” (NLT)

Joseph’s Crazy Dream -- THE STORY

When you think about it, it’s actually pretty amazing that Joseph had any kind of a dream. Sleep hadn’t come easily. The whole situation was incredibly stressful and traumatic.

This girl -- or should we say, young woman, that he was engaged to marry -- had informed him two days earlier that she was already with child. (Oh, wow, a package deal that he hadn’t anticipated.)

“What?” he raised his voice -- not so much out of anger as disbelief. It was not at all in keeping with the character of Mary. I mean, there were some girls that -- well, it would not have been that surprising. But Mary was different. That was why he had agreed to the marriage.

She was the dream wife -- gentle, beautiful, wise, known for loyalty, and a devoutly religious women. She had a reputation for kindness and was the first to share bread when a stranger came into the village. If anyone might be the mother of Messiah, it was she. That was why he agree to the marriage.

And, of course, he could see how such a great wife might enhance his carpentry business. If she were as reliable as he believed. She could manage the house and the finances -- and that would free him to spend more time in the shop doing man things. They’d have many years -- and many babies -- and a beautiful white picket fence life together. That was his dream.

But it had all gone out the window two days earlier with Mary’s surprise. How could she do such a thing? Yes, she was generous -- but apparently too generous!

And then to add to the drama she had this unbelievable story about an angelic visitor -- and how the Holy Spirit had overshadowed her (her words, not his) and that she was going to have some kind of “holy baby” -- who would be great and will be called the Son of the Most High -- and that he’d receive the throne of his ancestor David -- and would reign over Israel forever.

On top of that, Mary said the baby was to be named Jesus -- “the Lord saves.”

Ahh... Why, that wasn’t even a family name. Joseph was hoping that his first born would be a Benjamin.

Believe me, he wanted to believe her. But really -- think about it.

What would people in the village do when they started counting the months? They weren’t going to buy the whole angel bit. Angels don’t just show up all that often.

What was he supposed to do? Turn her over to the police -- accusing her of adultery? And who knows where they’d go with that? Certainly not anywhere good.

You can see why he was having trouble sleeping. So many of his dreams had suddenly crashed into bedlam -- bedlam caused by this woman -- a true daughter of Eve -- a woman who contrary to all external appearances, was obviously weak willed and cared more about a momentary pleasure than an entire life with him. Talk about a blow to the ego!

Have you ever had an event in life that flipped you over onto the ground and completed knocked the wind out of you? Left you dazzled and dizzy -- unfocused, unsure of yourself -- and life?

How could he have been so stupid as to not see this coming? There must have been signs along the way that he had just totally missed.

Finally, he decided that the best thing for Mary was to just divorce her, and send her away quietly -- and to not make a big deal out of the whole thing. (For technically they were husband and wife -- even though the marriage was not consummate.) It was only after days of agony, tears, and prayer that he figured out the course of action -- he’d go find her and tell her in the morning.

Once he’d made the decision -- finally decided -- only then was he able to sleep. Only then did he feel like he could meet with his pillow.

He was only out for a few minutes when his stressed mind started to dream. At first it was the normal weird stuff -- a cow wandering into the kitchen and drinking from a bowl that was full of dish water. Then it was a flashback to childhood and playing soccer on the flat roof of the little house where he grew up.

But then suddenly -- in the middle of the random chaos of his mind -- an angel. Don’t ask him how he knew it was an angel. He had never before seen an angel -- and had never even seen a cartoon caricature of an angel.

So how did he know? He just did -- and that angel was more real and more substantial than anything else in the dream -- perhaps more real and substantial than anything else in his non-dream world, too. Perhaps that’s how he knew.

“We interrupt this random resorting of your mind to bring you a message from God.”

I mean, yes, he was asleep but at the same time -- so totally awake.

“Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. What she told you was completely and totally true -- as far-fetched as it all sounds. The baby she carries is Holy Spirit-conceived. She is going to have a son and your job will be to name him Jesus -- for indeed he is the one who will save his people from their sins.”

Joseph was about to interrupt the angel with a random dream-type question about how angels fly and how many could dance on the head of needle -- but you know how that goes. You never ask coherent questions when you’re dreaming.

So it is probably just as well that the angel kept on talking over his attempted interruption.

“Joseph,” the angel said, calling him by name, “this is all related to the message given through the prophet, ‘Watch for this -- a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son, They will name him Immanuel -- God with us.’”

And then as quickly as he appeared -- the angel was gone. And suddenly Joseph was back to his childhood -- kicking a soccer ball off the roof of the house -- except it lboomeranged back in through the kitchen window and hit the cow who was drinking water from the bowl, in the back of the head.

That, of course, upset the cow, which ran through the house and eventually knocked down a wall right under where Joseph was standing -- and just as the whole house was starting to crumble -- and he was jumping off the collapsing roof -- in mid-air Joseph awoke with a jolt.

Wow, what a dream. And amazingly he knew what was real and what was not -- and immediately he knew what he needed to do. It didn’t matter what people in the village might think. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t the best business plan.

As soon as the sun rose he headed to Mary’s family’s house to arrange for an early wedding party -- and to bring Mary, bump and all, back to his home.

SONG -- Silent Night

READ -- Matthew 1:24-25
“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.” (NLT)

Joseph’s Crazy Dream -- POSTLUDE

It would be nice if we could finish the story with a simple -- “and they all lived happily ever after.” But it’s not that kind of a story and it is only 15 verses later that Joseph, Mary, and their young son are fleeing to Egypt for their lives.

AND things get even more messy -- and more wonderful as the story unfolds.

Perhaps, if Joseph had named the baby something other than Jesus -- “God saves” -- he would have grown up into someone other than a cross-bound messiah. Perhaps.

It wasn’t what he had dreamt up for his life or that of his family -- but what else could Joseph have done? What else can we do when God interrupts our dreams?

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