Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."--Matt 2:13
Aren't we lucky that Joseph was a dreamer?! I talked about this episode with Herod and the slaughtering of the youngest children in Bethlehem. So, it's lucky that our holy family made a quick get-away, and the wise men, who also received warnings in dreams, headed home along a different route, and Joseph later learned through another dream that, when he brought the family home, he was to head to Nazareth in Galilee and set up his carpentry business there. This is how we can arrive at the question, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" which always makes me think that Nazareth must have been the equivalent of Newark, for those of you from the Northeast... or maybe Orange, for those of you from the Texas Gulf Coast.
Another famous Joseph, the one in the book of Genesis with the fancy coat, was also a dreamer. That Joseph was carried off as a slave to Egypt; this Joseph was also going to the foreign land as a slave to God's directions. And so, it seems to me, that even though God supposedly drowned the Egyptians and their chariots and chariot drivers in the Book of Exodus, Egypt, nonetheless, holds a special place in the story of Christianity as a safe harbor for those fleeing oppression. Maybe God, in the way God does things, is using this as a moment to right the past wrongs of Pharoah and the Egyptians? Could be. We'll see if that catches fire with any theologians out there.
Dreams are wonderful ways for us to experience communication from the Source of all life. At long last, our egos are put to bed, and we are submerged into a non-linear time/space continuum where communication can happen in strange and mysterious ways. Sometimes, this is the place where we are able to untangle whatever gordion knot-like problems have plagued us during our waking hours. At other times, our dreams might be helping to point us toward things that need attention in our lives or show us a direction that we should take.
I don't always remember my dreams. And the ones I do remember are often very odd. But there is one that I had many years ago in which I the scene was my family's home in New Hampshire. The landscape was glowing in a reddish hue and had almost a feel of anarchy and dystopia. I had a sense that everything had fallen apart for my family, and there was nothing, absolutely nothing, I could do. Over the horizon, a large figure rose up over the trees and taunted me with a "Where is your God now?"
I think that is one of those questions that touches on a deep fear that I have and probably many people do, too: the fear of abandonment and being totally alone. Whether you believe in God or not, that sense that there is no one and nothing that is there to catch when you fall is truly scary. That's what, for me at least, is at the heart of that taunt. In the dream, what I recall feeling was a very strong sense of being totally alone and no matter which direction I looked in, there was no one who was coming to my aid. I was powerless and defenseless against this looming figure who seemed to take pleasure and feed off the fear that was rising up inside me. That's when another voice came to my rescue. That disembodied voice directed me to this circle of light and told me to go to it and stand in the center. I followed the instructions. The laughing, looming figure dissolved, and my own uneasiness melted away.
The experience of standing in the light is something that has stayed with me long since I woke up from that dream. It is the thing that's been on my mind this last day of Christmas. I have spent enough of this lifetime listening to the voices of tempters, destroyers, and robbers of joy. I have allowed doubts to override me and make me cower. Now it's time, more than time, for me to simply go to the light and stand in that center. I think this is good advice for all of us. I think it's what the wise men were understanding when they went after that star that rested over a certain place in Bethlehem.
On this night, I hope everyone dreams a dream of more light in their lives. Merry Christmas!