This week we head into the New Testament as we draw closer to Christmas Day. Our reading is from Matthew, which incidentally is our gospel of focus for this year so we will be delving into Matthew in some detail over the next few months.
Matthew gives us a version of the Christmas story that has a few different aspects to the version in Luke. It is Luke that we usually read, and we’ll be in Luke for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but today we concentrate on Matthew.
Matthew tells us the same basic story however we have a focus on Joseph that we don’t get in Luke. We also don’t get the shepherds in Matthew, but we do get the Wise Men. It is interesting that when we picture the nativity scene it contains both shepherds and wise men as well as being in a stable. All of this did not happen at the same time, nor was it told by the same writers.
In our focus on Joseph, we are told that his actions and decisions were guided by the instructions received in a series of dreams by angels. In fact, in the book of Matthew and in this opening couple of chapters that begin the story of Christ with us, there are five divine dreams and five scriptural fulfilments. Four of those dreams, those divine interventions into the story, are for Joseph. The other dream being the one received by the Magi.
How does God speak to you? I’ve had that question asked of me a number of times by a wide selection of you and others. How do we hear God and how do we know that it is God who is speaking to us? Dreams are but one way that God communicates with us, and there are many others, I’d love to have that conversation with you when you’re ready.
What astounds me is that Joseph listened. Joseph realised that he was being instructed by God and he responded and obeyed those instructions. How many of us actually listen for God and then obey what we have heard? It reminds me of the story of the young Samuel who heard God but had to receive the priest Eli’s instruction on how to respond to that voice before he could understand what was happening.
Within congregations there is often the exhortation to dream dreams, to think about what the future might hold for us in our particular context. What happens when those dreams are for something so strange and otherworldly that we cannot quite get our heads around it? Do we allow the space and grace for God to speak into the moments when we are most receptive to God’s leading without the temptation to limit those dreams only to what we see as possible, feasible or affordable?
How does this challenge us as we face a new year ahead with changing circumstances?