Matthew 1:18-25 – The Fourth Sunday of Advent – for Sunday, December 18, 2016
“As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream . . .” (Matthew 1:20)
At least he never remembered much about any dreams until that dream with its unexpected announcement and troubling intimacy.
Dreams might come to the lazy. However Joseph, after a long day of chores and responsibilities, always slept like a rock. Dreams might trouble those who were anxious—about money, the past or future, status—and would waste their nights in restless turmoil. Joseph didn’t worry . . . he worked.
He was a simple man.
He was a faithful man.
He was an honest man.
And he was a man in love with Mary.
And yet there was that damn with its persuasive voice and impossible demands. It stalked his waking mind like a feral cat he’d made the mistake of feeding.
Before the dream, he had reconciled himself to not caring how or why or when Mary had become pregnant. He loved her. An awful or embarrassing or youthful or shameful thing had taken place and she didn’t want to talk about it. That was fine. He loved her. Joseph had overheard several of the comments made about Mary when she went to the well for water and—if it hadn’t been for Mary giving him her stern, warning look—he would’ve taken his fists to those gossipers and rumor mongers.
Let the neighbors chatter. A village always had too many idiots.
She was pregnant. It happened. And each day her pregnancy was more obvious.
Joseph would do anything for her. He would even leave his beloved, if it would make Mary’s life easier.
And yet that damn dream.
Angels were jokes. Talk of God was for priests. And the dream’s promise about a child saving the people in the world from their own awful, greedy, nasty selves was one of the wildest things Joseph had ever heard . . . sober or drunk, awake or asleep.
Had he truly heard anything? Wasn’t it only a nighttime figment of his imagination?
But now when he awoke in the early morning, since that dream, he wondered and fretted. Before the dream, he told Mary they should call off the engagement—and she agreed with him. After the dream, feeling the fool, barely able to complete a sentence, he described the ridiculous angelic voice and absurd predictions, and told her that he’d still marry her—and she agreed with him.
How he loved her!
In the pre-dawn darkness, the man who never worried kept worrying. He would not be good enough. He would fail Mary. He would fail God. His neighbors would laugh at him. He customers would find another carpenter. Why was this happening to him?
He was a nothing and nobody. Joseph had more scars on his hands than smarts in his brain. He was an insignificant Jew in a small village on the forgotten edge of Rome’s empire.
Still, the dream lingered.
Joseph wished he could remember one of the reassuring prayers he’d been taught as a youth. But he was poor student with no memory for fancy verses. He wished he could recite special scripture, but all he recalled was the Shema:
Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Joseph believed in completed projects and kept promises. He was not, in any sense of the word, a dreamer.
But now, as if a dream, he’d soon become the father of a child.
In truth, weren’t all children God’s children? Parents raised them, and then raised their hands to bid farewell when the children left to live their own lives. All Joseph could do, and he vowed to do his best, was help his beloved Mary raise the child. Together, they’d teach him hard work and the value of honesty. Joseph would try to show his child, by the actions he took every day, that love mattered most. And then one day, God willing, the child would be on his own in this cruel world.
Joseph, with the sun not yet up, rose from bed.
It was time for another day of work.