Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by [the power of] the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her [promised] husband, being a just and righteous man and not wanting to expose her publicly to shame, planned to send her away and divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus (The Lord is salvation), for He will save His people from their sins,” Matthew 1:18-21.
You have probably heard of the 12 days of Christmas, a catechism song published in the 1780’s by oppressed Catholics. Yet, 4 dreams that made Christmas possible, the mass of Christ, are often overlooked. The first dream prevented Jesus from growing up in a single parent household, void of an earthly father. While dreams are a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep, the Lord sent an angel from heaven like a scene from a Christmas movie, to fulfill God’s plan for redemption on earth.
Now when they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod intends to search for the Child in order to destroy Him.” 14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet [Hosea]: “Out of Egypt I called My Son,” Matthew 2:13-15.
Whenever you have any dream, there are rationale explanations. This could be due to simply day dreaming, mental aspirations, nightmares or stress. However, from a spiritual perspective, there are times when God uses dreams as a form of divine intervention. The second dream of Christmas provoked an immediate response by awakening the soul of Joseph. Just as Old Testament families plotted the deaths of brothers who stood in their way of the throne, Herod attempted to slaughter the king of the Jews. However, babies are hard to identify from one another at an early age. Thus, King Herod devised a plan to kill all babies under the age of 2. This dream enabled Mary, Joseph and Jesus to escape this massacre in a nick of time.
But when Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20 “Get up! Take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then Joseph got up, and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel, Matthew 2:19-21.
Most people use an alarm clock to get up each morning. Others use their cell phone to make sure they are not late for work. However, this third dream introduces the concept of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25. After being on the run, living in a foreign land, another angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream. It’s unclear if God sent the same angel each time, but this dream served as a spiritual alarm clock to get up and go. This dream set the stage for the future king of the Jews to return home to Israel. Although this is only an assumption, after news of Herod’s slaughter of countless baby boys reached Egypt, Joseph likely developed a keen awareness of his dreams. Thus, each night as Joseph went to sleep, he was eager, hopeful and waiting for another encounter with God.
But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod [the Great], he was afraid to go there. Then being warned by God in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee, 23 and went and settled in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene,” Matthew 1:22-23.
The final dream of Christmas varies from the first three. The Lord didn’t need to send an angel to get Joseph’s attention. Rather, by this time in his life, Joseph was in tune with God, like a faithful servant eagerly awaiting his next command. These dreams radically transformed the life of Jesus’ earthly father. Instead of doubting, questioning or becoming a skeptic, Joseph had become a believer in God’s plan. Mary and Joseph may not have understood the impact their son would make on earth, yet they began to walk by faith, not by sight. As Christmas carols take over the airwaves this December, don’t forget to remind people of how God used dreams to protect and ensure this sacred holiday. May these dreams open your mind to the possibility of God speaking to you and me in a similar manner today.
by Jay Mankus