by Pastor Jerry Donovan

In Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus things are going according to schedule until Joseph learns the unthinkable. His life is suddenly in shambles, his trust betrayed, his future undone, and his insides torn up. He isn’t responsible for Mary’s unplanned, unforgivable, indefensible, inexcusable pregnancy.

In Mary and Joseph’s time, only one outcome was generally considered suitable for adultery. Adultery was an act that ended the marriage and could be punishable by death. However, Joseph decides to break off the engagement quietly. The right thing to do is to put all this behind him quickly, get on with his life, and let Mary get on with hers.

Then he has a dream in which an angel says, “Joseph, don’t be afraid. Go ahead and marry her. The child belongs to God. It’s a boy and it’s God with us.” Without an ultrasound, Joseph knows it’s a boy; or maybe it was just a dream. When he wakes up, he is more confused than ever.

This long-expected Jesus is coming pretty fast for Joseph. He’s being asked to assume responsibility for a girl and her baby with only a voice in a dream to go on. Leaving Mary is the reasonable thing to do. It’s not hard to ignore an angel’s whisper. Even if Joseph could convince himself to believe Mary, no one else will. He should shake it off and call his lawyer. Acting honorably is easy, dismiss the dream as just a dream and walk away. Haven’t you forgotten dreams with more details than this one? Against all odds, Joseph pushes aside the arguments and follows the dream. He’ll marry this pregnant teenager and be the adopted father of her child. He’ll take this huge risk on the basis of nothing more concrete than a dream.

What kind of person pays attention to a dream and listens to angels? God’s angels speak this word to all of us: “Don’t be afraid to believe, to walk a different path, to follow dreams.” We’re tempted to live a careful life, a careful faith: keep six of the Ten Commandments, go to church three out of four Sundays, give money we don’t need and time we can spare, try to do more good than bad, offer some grace and some judgment, believe the parts of the Bible that we agree with.

Whenever we’re dissatisfied with a cautious faith, it’s because God wants more for us. God invites us to stop being so cautious. Dream of yourself loving God with all your heart, not caring at all about the expectations of all those who have forgotten how to dream. Dream of the people you love letting go of jealousy and sarcasm, offering only words of kindness to one another. Dream of the church as a family where male and female, Hispanic and Anglo, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, old and young, saints and sinners gather to give thanks to God.

Dream of a world where people take chances to help others and discover that God is not only our hope, but that God has placed that hope within us.

Dream of God waiting for us to take just one step in the direction of grace and discover the love that’s always with us.


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