Christ Centered Resources

Joseph's Dream

Rev. Ed Searcy

Matthew 1:18-25
University Hill United Church : Sun, December 20, 1998
Joseph didn't know what to do. Before that first Christmas Joseph was in a panic. His new bride, Mary, was pregnant. He should be excited ... a baby ... their first child! But, instead, he was worried ... upset ... angry. You see, in Joseph's day, getting married didn't happen in a day ... it took a whole year. Around the time of a girl's twelfth or thirteenth birthday her family would arrange for her to be married. She and her husband would exchange vows, and they would be called 'Mr. and Mrs' but they wouldn't live together yet. For a whole year the bride would stay at home with her parents. Then, a year later the marriage of the young newlyweds would be completed and she would go to live with her husband and with his family. And during that year there was one thing that must never happen ... the bride must not become pregnant with a baby. It wasn't yet time. It wasn't done. It wasn't right. That is why Joseph was in a panic. Mary had told him that she was pregnant. Joseph did not understand. How could it be? What should he do? A part of him said: "Blame Mary. It's her fault. How could she do this to me? Let her carry the shame ... not me." But another part of him said: "She's so young. This will ruin her reputation. We cannot go on with the marriage. It wouldn't be right. I will share in the shame. I will divorce her quietly, without blaming her." Then Joseph went to bed and fell asleep and began to dream ... He dreamed that an angel came and tapped him on the shoulder ... a messenger from God, who said: "Do you mind if I wake you up? We have something that we need to talk about." And Joseph dreamed that he woke up and made the angel a pot of tea and gave the angel some sweets as they sat together at the kitchen table. It was all so 'real' in the dream. Then the angel of the Lord said: "Joseph, descendant of King David, do not be afraid to have Mary as your wife, for the child growing within her is from God's own Spirit! He is a boy ... a first-born son. And his name is to be, in Hebrew, Joshua, in Greek, Jesus ... Because his name means "God saves" and like Joshua who fought the battle of Jericho this little baby will save the people from their troubles. If you don't believe me just open up your Bible to Isaiah, chapter seven." And, in his dream, Joseph did just that. With the angel they rolled out the scroll of Isaiah and read the words together: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel". As Joseph rolled up the scroll, the angel tapped Joseph on the shoulder once again and said: "Remember ... Emmanuel means 'God is with us'." Just then Joseph felt someone tapping on his shoulder. He opened his eyes and realized that the dream was over ... realized that it had all been a dream ... knew that the angel of the Lord was gone. Yawning and rubbing his eyes he began to say "You wouldn't believe the dream that I just had!" But his brother was shaking him ... "Joseph ... Joseph ... wake up. It is Mary's father and brothers at the door. They got your message. They are here to meet with you to discuss your plans for a divorce. Get up .. get up ... I'll make the tea and get out the sweets. You must come to the table ... hurry." Joseph had no time to think. As he pulled on his best cloak and brushed his hair his mind raced. What could it all mean? He remembered his childhood lessons in the synagogue ... how his teachers loved to remind him of Joseph and his multi-coloured dreamcoat ... Joseph who received messages from God in dreams! Could it be? Might it have been 'real'? Was it God's messenger who spoke to him over a cup of tea in a dream? But there was no time to sort it all out. Before he knew it Joseph was sitting face to face with Mary's father and her brothers over a cup of tea at the table. "So", her father began, "have you decided to place all of the blame on Mary and all of the shame on us or are you willing to divorce her quietly, without making a fuss, in order to preserve a shred of dignity for her and for us?" Joseph hesitated. He did not speak. The room was absolutely silent. Then he said: "I have decided. I will not place the blame on Mary." There was a great sigh of relief from her father and great smiles of delight from her brother. But Joseph went on: "Neither will I divorce her quietly". Now the joy in the room turned to confusion. Joseph's own brother blurted out: "What did you say? What do you mean?" "I mean", said Joseph, "that I intend, in due course, to consummate our marriage and to have Mary as my wife and to raise her son as my own. I will adopt him ... give him all the rights of one who belongs to the lineage of King David. I will name him after Joshua. The Romans will call him 'Jesus'. And he will remind Jew and non-Jew alike of God's promise to save the people." The room was in an uproar. The men didn't know what to do. They had never heard of such a thing. The women, who had overheard everything were already running to tell young Mary ... to tell her that there was no shame ... to tell her that she was the luckiest woman alive. Mary, feeling the kicking inside, said "I know, I know". Later that night, Joseph's brother asked him: "Joseph, just tell me one thing. How do you know that it's going to be a boy?" And Joseph said: "Do you remember that I told you I had the strangest dream? Sit down. You aren't going to believe this." To Joseph's amazement, his brother did believe it. And do you know what? He is not the only one. Whenever we unpack the Nativity scene and place Joseph with young Mary beside the creche we join the community of believers ... believers in Joseph's dream come true.