But just when he had resolved to do 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 as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20)
It is not by accident that Matthew tells us that, while Gabriel spoke directly to Mary, Joseph’s message came in a dream. We can see a connection between this Joseph and the patriarch Joseph, whose story fills nearly thirteen chapters of Genesis. God spoke to that Joseph in dreams (hence the title of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), and in a similar way God spoke to Joseph the carpenter in dreams. Matthew looks for these kinds of parallels between the Old Testament and the story of Jesus.
Has God ever spoken to you in a dream? I hardly remember the dreams I have when I sleep. But I frequently have what could be called day dreams. Some might call these visions. In them I sometimes see what could be, what I believe God wants to be. These are ideas that come to me while I’m reading Scripture, or hearing someone else preach, or meeting with my small group, or conversing with others. Often these are dreams that come when seeing places of great need. I carry a little black book with me to write down these dreams to see if they appear to be only my ideas, or if it is possible God has placed these dreams in my heart. I look to see if they line up with Scripture and our church’s purpose; if they are personal, I consider how they line up with my personal mission. I share these dreams with my wife and ask for her thoughts. I share them with the lead staff and lay leaders of the church and with my closest friends. All this is a discernment process that helps me avoid chasing after a whim. Over the years some of the most meaningful and productive things I’ve been a part of have started with a dream that I felt was from God.
Your dreams nay emerge as you hear other people’s dreams. Several years ago Karla, one of our staff at the church, felt compelled to start a worship service for senior adults who had Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other forms of memory loss. She announced it to area nursing homes, and they began sending buses of people to worship service in our chapel.
Karla and her team filled the service with well-known hymns, familiar creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, and simple messages that might help people remember who they are. Recently the teachers in our daytime Kindermusik program began bringing the little children to sing for this worship service. The three- and four-year-olds sand, “Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong; they are weak, but he is strong.” As the children sang the chorus, “Yes, Jesus loves me!” voices of people who could not remember their own names joined the children: “Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.”
The dream of one woman became the dream of a host of volunteers, and together they did what they felt God was leading them to do. The result was something extraordinary.
God spoke to Joseph in dreams. Joseph’s dreams called him to devote the rest of his life to nurturing, mentoring, and protecting Jesus. My dreams from God seldom come at night. They are a sense of calling that well up inside.
Are you listening for God to speak to you? And if God speaks, are you willing to obey? Listening for God’s dreams, and following them, made all the difference in Joseph’s life; and it makes all the difference in our lives as well.
Lord, help me to listen for your dreams for my life, and give me the boldness and courage to pursue them. Speak, Lord; your servant is listening. Amen.