Scripture for this Sunday:
Isaiah 7.10–16; Psalm 80.1–8; Romans 1.1–7; Matthew 1.18–25
There’s a lot of dreaming in the Bible. Two men called Joseph have dreams that affect the future of their people. One saves his people (and others) from famine; one nurtures a pregnant young woman and her child who saves all people from a spiritual famine.
However, dreams need to be set in context. In the Advent book, Freedom is Coming, Bishop Nick Baines takes aim at a song, ‘Any Dream Will Do,’ from the musical based upon the first Joseph, and says: ‘No. Any dream will not do!’ What if someone’s dream is actually malicious, or harmful to others, for example?
The dreams that matter are the ones that God shares with us – and which we can see brought to life in Jesus. The stories of his birth capture aspects of Jesus’ ministry: obedience, nurture, caring, courage – but in this case demonstrated by his parents, including Joseph, the dreamer, in his care for Mary and her baby.
The season of Advent has as one of its themes the fulfilment of God’s dreams, and our part in fulfilling them. We set out on our Advent journey with a road map that includes deepening our faith, which will help us to be careful in pursuing God’s dreams; focusing on finding truth, which may involve taking a courageous and unexpected path, as Joseph did; pastoral care for one another, in which the loving treatment of Mary by Joseph is iconic and instructive; and striving to deepen our relationships and find unity.
In all of this, we need to set our sights high. In one of Leonard Cohen’s last songs, The Goal, he says: ‘No one to follow, and nothing to teach, except that the goal falls short of the reach.’ In hope, in peace, in joy, and in love, our goals all too often fall short of the reach that we see in the life and ministry of Jesus – and short of what we can achieve if we are open to God’s spirit working within us.
‘Any dream’ will not do – but the dream of following the will of our creator is certainly worth following, especially insofar as it embraces the broadest concept of love for one another. And that dream bursts into life in the event that we will celebrate in just a few days. Dream on!