A woman wakes up from her sleep a few days from Christmas and tells her husband, “I just dreamed that you gave me a pearl necklace for Christmas. What do you think this dream means?” “Oh,” her husband replies, “you’ll know the day after tomorrow.”
The next morning, she turns to her husband again and says the same thing, “I just dreamed that you gave me a pearl necklace for Christmas. What do you think this dream means?” And her husband says, “You’ll know tomorrow.”
On the third morning, the woman wakes up and smiles at her husband, “I just dreamed again that you gave me a pearl necklace for Christmas. What do you think this dream means?” And he smiles back, “You’ll know tonight.”
That evening, the man came home with a small package and presented it to his wife. She was delighted. She opened it gently. And when she did, she discovered a book. The title of the book was “The Meaning of Dreams.” Her husband sits besides her smiling.
Do not under-estimate the power of dreams. No matter how practical we try to be dreams are still real. No matter how rationalistic we consider ourselves dreams have the power to shape our world. Frederick Buechner said dreams remind us that “our lives are a great deal richer, deeper, more intricately interrelated, more mysterious, and less limited by time and space than we commonly suppose.” Some say dreams have no meaning. Others claim that dreams are as real as the world we live in when we are awake. Regardless, of how we feel about dreams, dreams and visions have moved people in directions that they would otherwise not take.
Joseph, the one engaged to Mary, mother of Jesus, has his life changed by dreams. He is first told in a dream to take Mary as his wife. Secondly, it was in a dream that he was told to gather his family and go to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. Finally, it was in a dream that he was told it was safe to return to Israel after Herod’s death. Joseph was a dreamer. I wonder if that was always the case. The scriptures describe him as “just” or “righteous.” A person described as “just” is someone who obeys the law. It is someone who applies the rules fairly. A “just” person is someone who gives equal application to the law. An “eye for an eye” type of person. Joseph was going to do the “right” thing and divorce Mary. At least he was going to do it quietly. He wasn’t going to be one of these revengeful partners who broadcast the adultery on billboards or throwing all their stuff on the front lawn with a large sign announcing the infidelity to the world. Joseph was going to do the “right” thing and divorce her but would do it quietly. He would not let his righteousness turn into revenge. Then he has a dream. His dream changes everything he knows about the righteousness of God and being just.
Joseph takes on the burden of love because he wants her, and God knows she needs him. The angel says, “Believe her unbelievable story and become the husband she needs and the father the child will require.” This child will need a father who can teach him to take risks. He will need a father who can teach him to stand with character in the face of disapproval and to believe the unbelievable. This son whom he will name Jesus will need to learn the compassion of what it means to call God “daddy.” He needs to be able to one day tell a story of a loving father who is willing to risk everything even the ridicule of the whole community to welcome back a wayward son. One day this son will grow up to be a teacher who tells his followers, “A father always gives good gifts to his children.” He will need to learn that lesson from someone. It is as though the angel was telling Joseph, “If you don’t walk the hard road to Bethlehem, who will give courage to this child of Mary to climb the cruel hill to Calvary?”
Through a dream, the angel tells Joseph not to give up on Mary. She needs him. He needs her. The angel’s message gives Joseph the courage to reach out beyond the penalties of the law and love a young girl who is no doubt broken and bruised. Justice becomes more than the equal application of the law. Justice becomes forever linked to love. It is a righteousness that is redefined through a dream. An angel interrupts Joseph’s moment of what seems to be a nightmare with a dream of a birth of a son that will be the salvation of the world. In the dream more than a son is promised, a father is born. Our world is in need of fathers who listen and believe in the dreams of God’s potential for their families.