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Matthew 2:13-23 and Excerpts from "Imagine" by John Lennon

Sunday, January 1st, 2023

By: Rev. Jackie Hibbard

Matthew 2:13-23

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." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son." When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more." When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly 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 seeking the child's life are dead." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean."


As I reflected on the scripture this week, I was struck by Joseph’s dreams. So many of them. He doesn’t ever speak in any of the scripture texts, but his dreams are vivid, dramatic, filled with warnings, guidance and hope. You might recall that a couple of weeks ago the scripture shared that Joseph was going to “dismiss” Mary when he found out she was pregnant before they were married. But then an angel visited him in a dream and told him not to. So he didn’t. What a dreamer Joseph was!

And this text - a dream about fleeing to Egypt for safety, another about returning to Israel when it was safe, then a last one to go to Nazareth.

I’m reminded about other dreamers throughout history:

  • John Lennon and his now famous song “Imagine” that you heard part of today. What a vision of the world that he dreamed of!

  • Martin Luther King Jr - His “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most famous speeches ever and it is his dream and vision of what this country can be for all people that many still look to

  • Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both dreamed and had a vision of the end of apartheid in South Africa and equality for all.

  • Sojourner Truth and countless other women in the 19th century all had dreams of women having the right to vote.

  • Harriott Tubman had visions and dreams that she said were “signposts from God” helping her lead enslaved people to freedom.

  • Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity came as he reflected about a dream he had about cows and an electric fence.

  • Paul McCartney’s song “Yesterday” made famous by The Beatles came to him in a dream.

  • Mary Shelley said that the storyline of her novel Frankenstein came in a dream.

  • Malala Yousafa dreams of education for all, but especially girls.

  • Greta Thunberg dreams of a healthy planet

  • Howard Thurman in his famous poem, “The Work of Christmas”, dreams about the world that Jesus spoke and talked about where the lost are found, the prisoners freed, the hungry are fed, the broken healed and so much more,

  • And millions of so-called “Dreamers” brought to this country as children without documentation or legal status dream of being citizens of the only country they know and which they love.

So many dreams. This just scratches the surface.

How many of us here have something we dream about? Whether while we sleep or while we think and hope about our purpose or our future? What do you dream about? What do you do with those dreams?

As I reflect about the scripture again - if Joseph hadn’t listened to his dreams and responded to them, he, Mary and Jesus would have experienced first hand Herod’s power-hungry fear, terror, killing spree, destruction, fury and experienced death.

But because Joseph listened to his dreams, they trusted, moved, listened and experienced safety, protection and life.

There is a quote by Harriet Beecher Stowe that says, “Dreams are the hushing of the bodily senses, that the eyes of the Spirit may open. (Harriet Beecher Stowe, Agnes of Sorrento, 1862) I think she is right on. Dreams help us get out of our own way, out of our thinking mind, into a space where the Spirit and our intuition might open us to see and experience things anew. I’m sure if Joseph had done a lot of overanalyzing, he might not have married a pregnant girl, or gone to Egypt or to Nazareth. Seriously, think about the conversations that might have happened if thinking minds overanalyzed. “Joseph, seriously, it’s the middle of the night! You want me to wake this baby who I just got to sleep and start traveling right now? And you want to go where? Egypt? Are you crazy? It’s no safer there than here! And traveling with a baby is not my idea of fun!” Probably not a good way to start a new marriage either. Listening and responding to these dreams was not rationally smart and went against all norms and some cultural expectations. And yet, he let the eyes of his Spirit open, trusted the dreams and God led. And here we are today all these centuries later.

I found another quote that seems relevant too - “Our dreams disturb us because they refuse to pander to our fondest notions of ourselves. The closer one looks, the more they seem to insist upon a challenging proposition: You must live truthfully. Right now. And always. Few forces in life present, with an equal sense of inevitability, the bare-knuckle facts of who we are, and the demands of what we might become.” ~Marc Ian Barasch

I find this quite compelling. Dreams present the bare knuckle facts of who we are and demand us to become something more. Whew! God asked some big things of Joseph in those dreams. Those dreams demanded that Joseph claim some power in new and counter cultural ways and get into action. To not listen to those demands meant destruction, fear, and death. Listening led to beautiful things and the spread of Jesus’ strong vision of what the world can be that lives on today. Dreams often demand action on our part. Joseph showed us that time and time again.

As I think about all those dreamers I mentioned earlier, it’s the same for them. It’s not to say that following dreams is always easy. Sometimes there is hardship along the way. All who dream must live truthfully, right now as Brarasch said. Listening to nudges, to the heart that is where God is. Maybe you know the song made famous in the musical, Man of La Mancha, “The Impossible Dream”. Dream the impossible dream, and act on it - the world will be better for this despite the hardships or blocks that may arise. It’s worth it in the end.

What is it that you dream of? For yourself. For your family. For the world. For this new year. For this church. Whether in a sleep state, or as your heart and eyes of the Spirit open while praying, meditating, walking, journaling, being in community - these are all ways to dream. What are you dreaming of? Dream what’s possible. Dream the beloved community. Dream what’s not yet. And then what are you going to do to move towards it? To make it real? Dreams don’t let us stay in the same place - they move us and urge us to something greater.

We’ll be spending some time together as a community in the next few months dreaming together about who we are and what and who we want to become. How do we bring our individual dreams together at CUCC to make a collective dream in this time? God used dreams to communicate with Joseph and is using dreams to communicate with us. Let the eyes of our Spirit open to dream together and co-create something greater for ourselves and the world. As John Lennon says, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Let’s be dreamers together and dream some great things to continue building the beloved community that Jesus laid out.

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