Sunday, December 6, 2020

Advent 2020: Peace and Two Dreams

This post is part of a series of reflections on Advent.
You can read the first post here: 33 DAYS AND COUNTING.

Today is the second Sunday of Advent. Today we look for peace. Scripture tells us that peace is something we need to put effort into obtaining (2 Peter 3:14) but also something that is given to us by God (John 14:27).  Jesus is Prince over a kingdom of Peace which never stops growing (Isaiah 9:6-7), but when I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that I don't always feel the ever-expansive peace of Christ.

The inclusion of the wise men in our modern telling of the nativity is interesting.  Despite modern depictions, the wise men didn't present their gifts to the Christ Child while He was still laying in the manger.  When they saw the star that signified His birth, they travelled from the East, stopped in Jerusalem, and met with the King... all before continuing on to Bethlehem. In fact, because Herod called for babies under two years of age to be killed, some believe Jesus could have been almost two before the wise men came to Him. Regardless of when, Scripture tells us that they presented Christ with those now iconic gifts - gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The wise men had done what they set out to do, and they were ready to go home, "But God warned the wise men in a dream not to go back to Herod, so they returned to their own country by a different way" (Matthew 2:12, NCV).

Scripture seems to be full of accounts of people who received a message from God by dream or vision. In the next verse - literally, the next verse - another dream comes as a warning. This time, however, it is Joseph who is the recipient.
After they left, an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, because Herod is starting to look for the child so he can kill him. Stay in Egypt until I tell you to return.” So Joseph got up and left for Egypt during the night with the child and his mother. (Matthew 2:13-14, NCV)
Why is it that God once spoke so often through dreams, but now it seems that He no longer does? First of all, we have something better than dreams.  We have the Spirit. We are taught that the Spirit teaches us (John 14:26), guides us (John 16:13), convicts us of sin (John 16:8), gives us power (Acts 1:8), and even tells us what to say (Luke 12:12). These are some of the things that were once accomplished by dreams. However, I think there is a second fact: we don't think that God speaks through dreams. Why would God speak in a way we are unwilling to hear?

What little faith I have! Of course God still speaks through dreams. Is my memory that short? I had a series of dreams about ten years ago that were unsettling. They weren't scary, but they shook my faith. I will admit, I don't think I responded in the way God wanted.  I suppose in that regard, the dreams did scare me because they required to do something that was well beyond my comfort level.  God, forgive me for not having more faith in that situation.

That brings me to this, and it may be just for me, but I feel like I need to write it all the same. If God speaks through dreams, historically and in my own life, I must respond appropriately to God-initiated dreams. A good friend and spiritual mentor recently shared with me a dream he had about me that he couldn't shake. He believed it was more than a dream, that it was a vision. The dream was too big, and would be too painful if I believed it and it did not come to be, so I pushed it away.

Peace is not always found where we thought it would be. The wise men went a different way. Joseph picked up his family and ran. What you or I will have to do, God only knows. We find peace in listening to God and heeding His warnings - sometimes from Scripture, sometimes from counsel, and sometimes from dreams.

The next post in this series can be read here: TWO BUNDLES OF JOY.

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