Sunday, December 18, 2016

Joseph, his Dreams and Ours

This is a festive time of year.  Children are excited about Santa Claus; houses flash with lights; stores are jammed with shoppers; and online circuits are overloaded.  In the midst of all this, we can easily forget the true meaning of Christmas.

Among biblical personalities dominating the Advent season readings are Isaiah, the Virgin Mary, and Joseph.

The author of Isaiah realizes that the Hebrew King Ahaz is in a quandary: mighty Assyria threatens his kingdom.  Isaiah begs the king, “ask for a sign from God” to know what to do.  But the king refuses.  And so Isaiah prophesizes that God will give a sign.   A young woman will bear a child Emmanuel or “God-with-us.”

Later, early Christianity saw the prophecy fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, whose name means “he will save.” Jesus is indeed our way, our truth, our life.

The Dream of Joseph
In the Gospel according to Matthew, Mary is pregnant with a child by the power of the Spirit. Joseph, already engaged to Mary, faces a dilemma: if it's not Joseph's child, it’s logical to conclude Mary must have committed adultery.  What to do?

Then, Joseph has a dream, an overpowering experience of the Divine, that convinces him to take Mary as his wife.

As I thought about this, I thought of the dreams of married couples when they first learn that they will be parents.

Their first dreams are usually for a safe birth, a healthy child.  And then parents may dream that their sons or daughters will excel in various fields.

But along the way, of course, this may change very quickly.   Where they once dreamed about a Nobel Prize winner, mom and dad may now settle for their child passing math.  Or their dream of a star athlete may be forgotten as they wait and hope that their child will recover after a terrible injury.   Or their dream of a high tech CEO success story may all but disappear when mom and dad desperately pray that their child will recover from an addiction.

Joseph in Sunday’s Gospel must have had dreams for his family.  Most important, the angel assures Joseph that he shouldn’t be afraid to take his beloved Mary as his wife.

Joseph is truly a model of trust in God for us.  Like Joseph, we pray that God will gift us with “the eyes of faith” to see God’s presence in all things, especially in the ordinary things in life.
Like Joseph, we pray that God will gift us with his love to accept people as a gift from God even if they’re not quite the gift we hoped for.

And we pray that God will gift us with the courage to try always to do the right thing, to be a source of affirmation and support for others, and especially our families, our colleagues at work, and our neighbors in the community.  Have a blessed week.

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