BIBLE READINGS:   Romans 1:1-7    Matthew 1:18-25

SERMON

It was a few days before Christmas. A woman woke up one morning and told her husband, "I just dreamed that you gave me a diamond ring for Christmas. What do you think this dream means?" "Oh," her husband replied, "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 diamond ring 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 diamond ring 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 was "The Meaning of Dreams."

What have you been dreaming about lately?

Some of us are dreaming about wonderful possibilities. We're dreaming of pearl necklaces and sugar plum fairies and boxes of chocolates. I hope all those dreams come true!

But as I consider my own dreams, I realise that I dream in two major categories. I have two kinds of dreams. Sometimes, my dreams are dreadful. I imagine painful relationships. I live out meetings and deadlines that I have missed. I am standing in a pulpit, for instance, with nothing to say. These are nights where my rest is continually disturbed by ominous thoughts and visions.

But there are other times when my dreams are of love and companionship – of beautiful scenes and exciting adventures.

Time magazine published an article about sleep. For all that we know about the human body these days, scientists do not know the exact reason that we need sleep. We know why we need food, shelter, and clothing; but we do not know why we need sleep.

And what is the reason for dreams, those strange images that bounce along our brain waves? We wake suddenly, and reality itself seems like a different world.

Why do we need sleep?

I believe the answer is this: We need sleep because we need to dream.

Today's gospel lesson is about a dream. The Fourth Sunday of Advent is about a dream, The dream of Joseph. Not Mary's dream, but Joseph's dream. In fact, the story of the angel Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary appears in only one gospel, the gospel of Luke.

In two other gospels, Mark and John, there is no account whatsoever of the physical birth of Jesus. We have four gospels, and they differ dramatically in how they tell the story of the birth of Jesus. In Matthew's gospel, the angel appears not to Mary at all, but to Joseph.

Consider his point of view. Joseph dreamed something wonderful. It was amazing! God would enter the world. God would be born to his wife, as crazy as that was to understand. Joseph had some serious trusting in God to do! But Joseph had to trust someone else, too. Joseph had to trust Mary.

Mary was his fiancé, and surely Joseph must have loved Mary. But, still, this took a lot of trust! And this is why Joseph's dream is so important. Joseph dreamed of the salvation of the world. And for Joseph, the way of salvation meant trusting someone else. It may well be that true salvation comes through someone else.

Like Joseph, sometimes, we are supposed to trust God and then get out of the way. Trust that God is working through our wife (or our husband or our parents) , and then get out of the way. Trust that God is working in our children (or our neighbours or our friends) , and then get out of the way.

Some time ago I was involved in a conversation about How God communicates with us. The questions was asked - “Why doesn't God speak to us directly?” And wouldn't it be great if an angel did appear again, like the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary?

Imagine young Mary, minding her own business, suddenly being overcome with news of a great conception, a great presence of the divine. It's something to have an angel speak to you. Even those who are not religious might turn their heads.

But it did happen again. The angel did appear to someone besides Mary. The angel appeared not just to Mary. The angel appeared to Joseph. We often forget about Joseph. Every year, we tend to focus on the story of Mary. But this year, it's Joseph.

Now, if the angel can appear to Mary, and then also appear to Joseph, there's a lesson in that. That means that the angel can appear to you and me, too. In the Bible, the annunciation does not occur only once, but twice-not just to a woman, but also to a man.

The Bible, reminds us that God does appear over and over again, to various sorts of people. Matthew and Luke both have it right, but they are different stories.

What are you giving for Christmas this year? I do not mean what are you getting. We all want something wonderful, I am sure. But what are you giving for Christmas?

The greatest gift you can give this year is to believe in someone's dreams. The greatest gift you can give is to have faith in someone else; believe in their dreams. Believe in the dreams of the person you love. Believe in the dream of your husband. Believe in the dream of your wife. Believe in the dreams of your children. Believe in the dream of your hero, your leader, your friend. Believe in their dreams!

And sleep comfortably this season. I know some who do not sleep well. Too much worry. Too much food and drink. The author Rabelais joked, "I never sleep comfortably except when I am at a sermon." The reason we sleep is to dream. The reason we have relationships is so that we will have someone who will believe our dreams.

God works through those relationships. God works through both Mary and Joseph. God needs both Luke's story of the annunciation and Matthew's story of Joseph's dream. They are miracle stories.

God works through a young and wonderful woman, and her husband believes in her. That miracle can occur again and again. Believe in the dreams of the person you love. Believe in dreams this Christmas, and Jesus will be born again. Believe in dreams this Christmas, and God will appear.

Acknowledgement: Rev. Samuel Candler