Fourth Sunday of Advent - Unless First We Dream
Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. We're almost there!
Advent is not just a season of expectation; it's a season of preparation.
And what exactly are we preparing for?
Change? Transformation? New Life?
Do we want to be better people? Do we want the world to be a better place?
All of the above, right?
The Advent season reminds those who find our home in the Christian tradition that it all comes down to Jesus. Jesus makes all the difference---not only for us but for the whole world.
Today we’ll be talking about how our efforts to explain the mystery of Jesus are not nearly as helpful as simply experiencing Jesus. And were going to be reading a dramatic story of a dream that Joseph (the Mary and Joseph, Joseph) had.
But first, let me lay some groundwork to get us thinking since we're talking about dreams today...
I'd like to take just a few minutes to talk about the Science of Dreaming vs. The Mystery of Dreaming.
Have you ever heard of people dreaming dreams that came true? We all have those stories, don't we? Maybe it's actually happened to you.
So is dreaming just repressed memory, as Freud and Jung believed, or is it something deeper? Some sleep scientists have posited that dreaming is just our way of processing everything we've taken in through all of our inputs for a day or our subconscious trying to sort things out.
This theory has our brain operating like a computer that needs to download files into various storage areas, try to make sense of it, and perform some much-needed maintenance.
But some recent research has indicated that dreams function much more mysteriously. This research indicates that without dreaming, we don't really have ways to process our sensory input or the things we've been pondering or worrying about and our emotions and memories to some extent.
Dreams help regulate traffic on that fragile bridge that connects our experiences with our emotions and memories. This is less a computer analogy and more of a heart analogy.
Sometimes we just need to experience things, to feel them, and not to explain them.
Today’s Advent reading tells the story of how Joseph, Jesus’ “earthly” father embraced a new reality instead of trying to solve a problem.
Here's what I want us to hold on to today as we work through this sermon together:
THE MYSTERY OF JESUS IS NOT A PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED, BUT A REALITY TO BE EXPERIENCED
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[a]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Explanation of the laws surrounding this and what Joseph was doing.
Joseph's response to the mystery was to try to solve it like a problem. Can you blame him?
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d] (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Like I said, Joseph was set to solve this like a problem, but after his experience of a new reality, it changed everything for him.
Whatever it was that transformed Joseph changed his life and the world.
Image of Joseph holding Jesus
I love this image. It speaks to the depth of the change that Joseph experienced to raise Jesus as his own. Are there any stepdads out there?
Where In Your Life Have You Been Approaching Jesus Like A Problem
1. Understanding what it means to be a follower—checklists, steps, etc.
2. Thinking that we’re not good enough—despite what Jesus said
3. Not being prepared for the ever-arriving Christ in our lives.