Summary: The first of Three 2006 Advent Sermons
(1) Last year I heard an incredible song that was the background to a house whose lights were set to this song. Those of us who have e-mail probably received it at least once last season.
After I tracked down the title, I tracked down the CD and Susan gave me the CD as a birthday present. The group who recorded the song is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. (None of them however, from what I have been able to tell, are from Siberia.) Several of those songs on that CD have become favorites of mine and it was one of those I was listening to in the car this past Monday that made me stop and ask the question, ‘What is your Christmas Dream?’ (2)
It goes like this…
On this night of hope and salvation/one child lies embraced in a dream/where each man regardless of station/on this night can now be redeemed
Where every man regardless of his nation/ancestral relations/on this night the past can fly away
And that dream we’ve held the most/that every child is held close/on this night that dream won’t be betrayed
All as one/Raise your voices/raise your voices/all as one/on this Christmas Day!
All rejoice/raise your voices/raise your voices/all rejoice/Anno Domine!
On this night when no child’s forgotten/no dream sleeps where he cannot see/no man here is misbegotten/and this night’s dreams are still yet to be
As a child one of my Christmas dreams was always centered on my hoped for presents. As a teenager and college student, I dreamed of sharing my Christmas with a girlfriend which never happened until about 25 or so years ago when Susan entered my life. As an adult, I admit that I still have a kid in me, but a greater dream is that those who receive my gifts get great joy out of them as well as remembering the true reason for the season.
What is your Christmas Dream?
In the song I just quoted, we hear about a dream that all people get a second chance and that all children are ‘held close’ as they are loved by someone who cares for them. Those are good dreams and I think, as we come again to the season of advent, we hear some of those same dreams, those same hopes acknowledged in the Biblical account of Christmas especially when we come to Luke 2:13 and 14. (3)
“Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to all whom God favors.”
Whom does God favor? Well, in the context of the passage we can say with a fair amount of certainty that God favored those shepherds the angels were speaking to that night.
We can also widen the lens a bit and say with some additional certainty that God favored Mary…, Joseph…, and the Wise Men. Then, pulling the lens back even further, we can go to John 3:16 and say with some more certainty that God, because He loves the whole world and sent His son, Jesus to die for it, favors all of us.
(4) This leads me to ask, ‘What was (and still is) God’s Christmas Dream?’ We are going to look at Joseph’s dream this morning and see if we can answer the question.
Now, before we take some time to look at Joseph’s situation, it is important to note something here that you might have had questions about over the years, namely, the marital status of Joseph and Mary.
According to Biblical scholars, there were three stages in the marriage process of that day. First was the agreement between the families that their children should marry because marriage was arranged by the parents not the children. Second was the period of ‘betrothal’ or engagement. This second period is different from our concept of engagement in that where a couple in our time and age can break an engagement off without too much difficulty, the only way that Joseph and Mary could break their engagement was either by dying or by divorce and Joseph had legal grounds for divorce because Mary was pregnant before they were legally married.
The final period, generally after one year, was the marriage at which time the groom went to the bride’s home, took her away from her family, and the couple was considered married.
All of this was on Joseph’s mind while he was asleep. He was facing a very painful and difficult decision. He was an honorable man and he wanted to do what was right by Mary as well as do the right thing. He had every right to divorce her for she had violated the law that indicated there was to be no sexual intimacy during this time.