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Meditations for December 22, 2013 / Advent 4

Two Advent Meditations on Joseph
The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn't know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God's angel spoke in the dream: "Joseph, son of David, don't hesitate to get married. Mary's pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God's Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—'God saves'—because he will save his people from their sins." This would bring the prophet's embryonic sermon to full term:

Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for "God is with us").

Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God's angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25 (The Message)
Meditation #1
It was a few days before Christmas. That morning, a woman woke up and told her husband, "I just dreamed that you gave me a diamond necklace for Christmas. What do you think this dream means?" Her husband replied, "Oh, you'll know the day after tomorrow."

The next morning, she turned to her husband again and said the same thing, "I just dreamed that you gave me a brilliant diamond necklace for Christmas. What do you think this dream means?" And her husband said, "You'll know tomorrow."

On the third morning, the woman woke up and smiled at her husband, "I just dreamed again that you gave me a stunning diamond necklace for Christmas. What do you think this dream means?" And he smiled 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 found . . . a book! And the book's title? How to Interpret Your Dreams.

Advent is a season of dreams. What have you been dreaming about lately? Some of us are dreaming about wonderful potential. We're dreaming of new possibilities, new toys, and new beginnings. I hope all those dreams come true! During my regular sleep time, many of my dreams fall into two major categories. There are worried dreams and chase dreams. The worried dreams are the ones where I stand in a pulpit with nothing to say. Or I’m running an hour late and the worship service has been going on way to long and people are getting up and leaving, and I can’t get the buttons to my robe fastened, and everything is going wrong. In another dream I’m back in college and I show up to class unprepared, or I can’t register for the one class I need in order to graduate. I had a worried/chase dream combo last night. I was a tourist in Israel with a bunch of people. I parked a big red can by the side of the road and when I came back it was gone – stolen. The police would not help. They basically told me I should have known better. Somehow we all got back to the house were staying at – a house by the beach. Safe and sound -- except for the huge rain and wind storm and swelling waves that chased us inside and began pummeling the house and flooding us out. The wind must have been loud outside my bedroom window last night. A stray wire-haired dog in a purple collar showed up in my dream last night, too. Not sure about that part . . .

Sometimes my dreams are refreshing. I dream about reconciliation. I dream that my enemies and I are living at peace. I dream of flying through the air joyfully, or swimming like a dolphin. I dream of new opportunities. These are nights where my hope is renewed.

What are these strange stories that bounce along our brain waves when we sleep? We wake suddenly, and reality itself seems like a different world. Today's gospel lesson is about a dream -- the dream of Joseph. Not Mary's dream, but Joseph's dream. Today we get to consider his point of view. Joseph dreams something wonderful. And scary. God will enter the world in human form. God will be born to Joseph’s fiancĂ©e, as crazy is that is to understand. Joseph has some serious trusting to do! Joseph has to trust that the voice of God is speaking to him in his dreams. Joseph has to trust Mary is telling the truth about how she got pregnant. Joseph has to believe in sacred dreams and then choose to align himself with God’s aims for the world.

I want us to consider a gift that we can give others this season. It’s the gift of trust. It’s the gift of believing in sacred dreams. One of the greatest gifts you can give is to have faith in someone else. Believe in the sacred dream of the person you love. Believe in the sacred dream of your husband. Believe in the sacred dream of your wife. Believe in the sacred dream of your children. Believe in the sacred dream of your hero, your leader, your friend. Believe in their dreams! Believe in sacred dreams this Christmas, and Jesus can be born again. Believe in dreams this Christmas, and God can appear.

Meditation #2
Joseph. Tradition  says he is a decent man. A righteous man. A good man facing an impossible choice. A man wanting to do the right thing. But what is the right thing? Joseph is a man caught on the horns of a dilemma. Does he stay faithful to a woman who looks like she has been cheating on him, or follow religious law and call of the wedding? He is torn between his family duty to Mary and his religious duty to law of God. When he hears Mary is pregnant, Joseph does the best he can. He resolves to let her go quietly, not make a big deal over this pregnancy so she doesn’t have to face the law’s punishments for pregnant unmarried women. And then, in the midst of a restless sleep, the angel of God comes to Joseph and invites him to take Mary as his wife and to name her child, and to claiming the child as his own. We know the story. Joseph says “yes”—yes to God. That’s often where the story ends.

But there’s so much more to Joseph’s yes to God. In naming Jesus, Joseph adopts him as his own and raises Jesus in the ways of God’s people. Joseph will watch over Jesus. He will listen in the night. He will worry about him. He will do all he can to keep that baby safe. Joseph will love Jesus and teach him his trade. Think of it. Think of the role Joseph played in Jesus’ life. Imagine what Jesus learned from Joseph.

Imagine the two of them at the carpenter’s bench . . . Joseph teaching Jesus how to use tools . . . Joseph telling stories from the Bible, sharing the parables of old . . . singing the psalms . . . singing of a father’s love. Imagine Jesus watching Joseph . . . maybe seeing how Joseph treats the people others ignore . . . perhaps noticing Joseph’s kindness . Maybe Jesus is aware of how Joseph goes out of his way to make others feel welcome. Maybe Jesus sees the tenderness Joseph shows to Mary.

Imagine Joseph telling Jesus stories about the Romans. We can almost hear him muttering about the way the Romans treat the Israelites — the heavy taxes, the hillsides crowded with crosses, the arrogance of Rome’s unlimited power. Imagine Joseph planting in Jesus a passion for justice. Imagine him sharing his longing for peace with Jesus. Think of it. Think of the role Joseph played in Jesus’ life.

And think of the role Jesus played in Joseph’s life. Think of how Joseph’s yes to God rearranged his own life; think of the richness it brought him; think of how that yes to God stretched Joseph into new possibilities, new relationships, and new ways of being in the world.

In this season of dream, God comes to us just as God’s angel came to Joseph. God invites us to take God’s a new promise into our homes and into our hearts. God calls us to live into the fullness of God’s dream for us. God stretches is to accept new realities – new perspectives that we may have never considered before. God gives each of us an opportunity to say yes—to say yes to God. How will we respond?

O God, this Christmas-tide, nurture in us the song of a lover, the vision of a poet, the questions of a child, the boldness of a prophet, and the courage of a disciple. Come God, and give birth to a new creation in our hearts. Let something essential happen to us: something like the blooming of hope and faith, like a grateful heart, like a surge of awareness of how precious these moments are.

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