But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:20-23
There was a movie that came out about 25 years ago that scared the pants off of me. It was called “Jacob’s Ladder.” The premise is that a man “dreams” his life as he’s dying during an emergency operation in Viet Nam. His life is not real, just a dream, and reality is that he’s moments away from death.
I’ve never had a dream that seemed so real that I couldn’t tell it was a dream. All my dreams – so far – are obviously dreams.
But sometimes they still scare me, making me wake up in a cold sweat, shaking, or even screaming (that only happened once that I can remember).
Joseph had a dream, but it was nothing like my dreams. His dream was a reality, an important reality that changed his life.
Joseph was betrothed to Mary of Nazareth. This betrothal stage was not merely their engagement. They were legally married. However, they would not live together or have “relations” for one year. Part of this, it is believed, was to prove publically that both have refrained from sexual sin.
The Scriptures tell us that Joseph was a “just man.” He took seriously his relationship with God and God’s Word.
When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, Joseph had some serious decisions to make. God’s Word clearly stated that someone who commits adultery is to be stoned to death. From Joseph’s perspective, Mary is guilty of this sin. Therefore, she should die.
But the same Scripture that tells us that Joseph was a “just man” also tells us that he was “unwilling to put her to shame.’”
Joseph obviously loves Mary deeply. He doesn’t want her to die. But his relationship with God forbids him to continue with the marriage, so he “resolved to divorce her quietly.”
Also not wanting to make a hasty decision, Joseph decides to sleep on it.
That night, Joseph has the dream that will change his life.
An angel appears to him and tells him – nearly word for word – what Gabriel told Mary. That the baby is conceived by the Holy Spirit, is a boy, and is to be named ‘Jesus.’
While I know that my dreams are just that, dreams, Joseph knows that this dream is actually reality.
He is hearing a word from the Lord God! The same God he has such a deep relationship with – characterized by his being called a “just man.”
Joseph is told that Jesus will be the fulfillment of thousands of years of prophecy and promises – that he will be “Immanuel.”
That word means “God with us” and that is exactly what Jesus is!
Joseph has no questions or doubts as to the validity of what he’s told in this dream. He wakes up, goes to Mary and continues the betrothal. They complete the betrothal and travel together to Bethlehem and there, as so many Christmas songs tell us, Jesus was born!
How could Joseph know for sure that what he learns in his dream is the actually truth?
I know that my dreams are not truth and reality. Many of my dreams involve lightsabers – I know those don’t exist.
Joseph never questions what he experiences in his dream. Why?
Because being the “just man” that he is, he confirms what he learns. He goes back to his Bible.
The name “Jesus” is Biblical. It is actually the name “Joshua” and means “Yahweh saves.”
Then there’s the name “Immanuel.” The angel in the dream quotes Scripture!
Isaiah 7 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Joseph confirmed what he heard with the Holy Scriptures.
We can do the same. We have God’s Holy Word to confirm what we hear in church, in sermons, in devotions we read on the internet, and even songs we hear in this Advent/Christmas season.
However God speaks to us, it can be a life-changing event just as it was for Joseph – who had a very special relationship with the Son of God.
That will be true for us as well!
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