In a few weeks, our dreams for the New Year will be ready to be played out. Our God has a history of using any means to get a message to us. In addition to His Word, He has used a talking animal, prophets, children, adults, and angels. We do well to learn His ways of getting a message to His people. We also do well to learn from the people God chose to carry out His work.
Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus, was visited by the angel of the Lord and given specific instructions from God. The visits by the same angel happened more than once and always in a dream. There were many other angels. The angels who heralded the birth of the baby King. Everyone knows about those angels. Those angels who told the shepherds to go to Bethlehem and see the Christ-child in the manger.
We use those angel symbols for peace, joy, and proclamation of good tidings. We know about those angels. The Christmas story is so familiar to those of us who have grown up hearing it year after year.
There was another angel. He is referred to as the angel of the Lord. He appeared to the shepherds first before he was joined by the multitude of the heavenly host. We don’t know his name for certain or his title except that he was the angel of the Lord.
God used him for more than making that initial announcement to the shepherds. He used him to give direction to Joseph through dreams.
After learning that Mary was with child, Joseph wrestled with what he should do. He was betrothed to Mary. In that time and culture, to break a betrothal was equal to divorce. That Joseph cared about Mary and her reputation is evident. Even though he was considering “divorce”, he was thinking he’d do it quietly. Otherwise, she could be stoned for her “sin” of fornication. The fact that he wanted to put her away “privately” tells of his love and affection for her.
Only Mary wasn’t guilty. Mary knew she was innocent, and so did God.
That night, as Joseph wrestled with what to do, God told him. While Joseph pondered on what to do, the angel of the Lord came to him in a dream.
“Don’t be afraid to take Mary for your wife,” the angel said. “The child growing inside her is from the Holy Spirit.”
So Joseph married Mary. He didn’t put her away and he didn’t disown her. He married her and no doubt bore the brunt of shame from others. Mary knew, and Joseph knew that their relationship was pure. Even after their marriage, Joseph and Mary refrained from sexual relations. Joseph remained pure so that Mary would be a virgin when she gave birth to the Christ- Child. That took some commitment to the call of God.
After the birth of the Baby and long after the visit by the shepherds, wise men came from the east to worship this Baby. Traveling through Jerusalem, they stopped to see Herod and asked about the King. Herod sent for his scribes, who told him where the Baby was to be born.
As a snake in the grass, Herod sent the wise men on their way, ordering them to return to Jerusalem and tell him where they found the Child so he could “go worship Him also.”
The men followed the star to the house where they found the young Child and His mother. In adoration, they knelt down and worshiped. They left gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
After they left, these men didn’t go back to Jerusalem because God warned them in a dream to return to their own country another way.
The “snake” became enraged and prepared to strike. He commanded that all children two years- old and younger be killed. He would be sure to be rid of that Child.
However, God was ahead of him. (He always is!) After the wise men left, the angel of the Lord came in a dream to Joseph during the night and commanded him to get up and take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt.
Joseph obeyed. This man, who hadn’t asked for this job or this responsibility, did just what he was told to do. He woke up his family and fled with them to Egypt during the night. No doubt those treasures from the wise men helped fund their way for the journey and a new start in Egypt.
After Herod died, again the angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream. This time he told him it was safe to take the Child and His mother and return to Israel. They started out, yet Joseph was afraid to go to Judea since the son of Herod was now reigning in his father”s stead. Again, Joseph was warned in a dream to go to Nazareth, a small town in Galilee instead.
All this happened so that the scripture could be fulfilled that said, “He will be called a Nazarene.“
God is always there ahead of us.
When Joseph didn’t know what to do about his pregnant fiancee, God was there ahead of him. When Joseph wasn’t aware of impending danger, God knew, and He was there ahead of him. When Joseph was given a task to be the earthly father of Jesus and to provide for and protect this Child, God was there ahead of him.
During this Christmas season, and throughout the new year, hold tight to your dreams. Remember that God is there ahead of you and He will speak to you just like He did to Joseph. Let Him change your dreams. Whatever you do, be like Joseph.
Like Joseph, accept the plan God has for you – and don’t fight it.
Like Joseph, bear the brunt of ridicule and gossip that sometimes happens as a result of following God’s plan.
Like Joseph, be the person God wants you to be, even when the plan is not what you dreamed. If it means withholding yourself from what is rightfully yours in order to fulfill God’s plan, do it.
Like Joseph, be a part of a child’s life, even if the child is not your own.
Like Joseph, be the protector of children, even if they are not your own and it means getting up in the middle of the night for their rescue and protection, even when you have to risk your life.
Like Joseph, risk your heart and your life to help the Kingdom.
Like Joseph, you can be used to help bring God’s plan to completion.