Scripture: Matthew 1:18-21
Since I became an adult, I have been afflicted with recurring bad dreams. They’re mostly related to academic insecurities. For example, in one of these dreams, I get a call one day—out of the blue—from the principal of my high school. I’m sure he’s long since retired now—and, besides, my high school is now a middle school.
But in my dream it’s still a high school, and he’s still the principal.
He informs me that there was a mistake in the record-keeping back in 1988 when I graduated, and, as it happens, I’m going to have to go back to high school in order to receive all the necessary credits I need to earn my diploma. And, oh, by the way… If I don’t go back to high school, they’re going to call Georgia Tech and Emory University and tell them to take away the three degrees that I earned between those two schools.
I’m pretty sure my old high school didn’t have the authority to do that, but in my dream it did!
This is hardly a terrifying nightmare, but when I wake up—after I slowly regain my senses—I am so relieved that this was only a dream. And I don’t give it another thought.
In today’s scripture, Mary tells her fiancé Joseph that she’s pregnant. Joseph knows that he’s not the father, and he knows the facts of life. He doesn’t believe Mary’s story about an angel visiting her, God working a miracle within her, and how she’s giving birth to the Messiah. Who would?
So he decides to quietly break off their engagement. Before he can do so, however, an angel visits him and convinces him otherwise—that Mary’s story, as hard as it is to believe, is true.
Except… there’s a little more to it than that. Notice that the angel doesn’t just show up one day out of the blue, nicely backlit with a halo, like Roma Downey in Touched by an Angel. No. The angel comes to Joseph the same way the principal from my old high school comes to me… in a dream, in a crazy, crazy dream.
Yet somehow, Joseph had the faith, the insight, and the wisdom to discern that this wasn’t just another crazy dream like so many others—that the messenger in his dream wasn’t the result of some spicy food he ate the night before but was actually the voice of God, telling him that his new mission—should he choose to accept it—was going to completely turn his life upside down.
What prevented Joseph from waking up from that crazy dream—the way I wake up from my crazy dreams—and thinking, “Whew! It was just a dream!” No one could blame him if he did. His life certainly would have been easier! Instead, he took the risk to believe, which wasn’t easy.
But the truth is, a Christmas kind of faith is never easy.
Has God ever spoken to you in a dream? How do you discern when God is leading you to do something? When in your life have you taken a risky step of faith?
📲 Watch this movie I made about Bethlehem from my trip to the Holy Land.