Wednesday, 01 February 2023

First Lutheran Corner: Joseph dreams of a return to Israel

“After Herod had died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 'Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead.'" – Matthew 2:19-20

Dreams and visions at Christmas seem to go together.

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas," Bing Crosby and other voices croon this time of year.

And what would Christmas be without a reading of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"? Who doesn't know Clement Moore's words, "The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads."

Then, of course, there's Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol that tells us of Ebenezer Scrooge's dream of "the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

There's quite a tradition of dreams and visions at Christmas, wouldn't you say? It's a very old tradition; in fact, it's as old as Christmas itself.

Christmas began with the dreams and visions of Joseph, Mary, shepherds and Wise Men.

That's what we've been considering each week of this Advent/Christmas season, especially the dreams of Joseph and the Wise Men. They tend to get overlooked because the focus is usually on the shepherds, the innkeeper, and the manger in Luke's gospel.

As a matter of fact, Matthew doesn't mention these at all. His focus isn't so much on the birth event of Jesus as on the protection of the Holy Child that was born. One after another come the dreams in Matthew's Gospel, five altogether. First is Joseph's dream of an angel who tells him to take Mary home as his wife.

Next is the dream for the Wise Men. They follow a star all the way from Persia to Jerusalem looking for the newborn king. In a dream, they are told to go back a different route because Herod has gone crazy, again!

Perhaps on the same night the Wise Men have their dream, Joseph has another one. "Get up," the angel tells him in the dream, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."

So now, we consider the fourth dream. A few months have gone by; we don't know exactly how many.

According to tradition, the Holy Family is living in a cave near Cairo. There seems to be the pattern; first they live in a house in Nazareth, then a cave in Bethlehem, then a house, and now once again a cave.

So, you see, it wasn't just as an adult that Jesus could say, "The Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Again and again Jesus is homeless, his life threatened, even as a baby.

It's probably at this cave in Egypt the angel comes in a dream to Joseph. "Get up," the angel tells him, "take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead."

How do you suppose Joseph feels as he hears these words?

Why all this torturesome travel? These are the obvious reasons, but there's one very important one. The infancy and life of Jesus retraces the journeys of Israel, the people of God.

Israel, the chosen people, the people God called to be his own, had disappointed him. But God loved them, nonetheless and the travels were necessary.

Please join us at First Lutheran Church this Sunday, Dec. 23, at 11 a.m. to hear more about Joseph’s dream that brought Jesus to Nazareth and how closely it ties to the travels of the Israelites as Matthew had intended in writing this Gospel.

All are welcome, so please, come as you are and join us Sunday for worship and a hot lunch and then again on Christmas Eve, Monday, Dec. 24, from 1 to 4 p.m. for our free community Christmas dinner and our Christmas Eve worship service at 5 p.m.

Chris DelCol is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Lucerne, Calif. The church is located at 3863 Country Club Drive, telephone 707-274-5572. Email Pastor Chris at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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