What are you dreaming this Christmas?

Dream of Joseph by Brian Whalen

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Audio for homily 

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
just like the ones I used to know,
where the treetops glisten and children listen
to hear sleigh bells in the snow.
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
with every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright
and may all your Christmases be white.
Well, we might be dreaming of a white Christmas
but the gospel tells us clearly
that Joseph was having a very different kind of dream.
Joseph’s waking and sleeping hours found him
anxious, afraid, embarrassed, worried, disappointed and sad.

Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant and he knew it was not his child.
Her explanation was a story of an angel’s visit and message
that she would conceive a child through the Holy Spirit.

Anxious, afraid, embarrassed, worried, disappointed and sad
were Joseph’s nights.
And he was ready to quietly break off his betrothal to Mary
until one night in his fitful sleep he was lulled by a dream
and in the dream, an angel’s visit
and from the angel a message, “Joseph, don’t be afraid…”

Don’t be afraid - of what?
Of taking Mary into his home as his wife? 
Yes, that.
Of caring for a child he knew he had not sired? 
Yes, that too.

But perhaps most of all, 
the angel in the dream was telling Joseph,
“Don’t be afraid of how the mystery of God 
is weaving itself into your life, into your heart, your love, 
your desires, into your whole future.

“Don’t be afraid, Joseph, of how the mystery of God
will touch your life, shape your life, turn your life around
and stand you on your head.

“Don’t be afraid, Joseph no matter what comes your way,
because in everything and in all things,
God will be with you.”

None of us is asked to face what Joseph faced.
But all of us, like Joseph, face times in our lives
when God has allowed things to happen,
or has allowed things to fail to happen,
that would intimately touch, shape and turn our lives around
in ways we never dreamed would happen.
And sometimes in ways we hoped would never happen.

There is perhaps no time in the year more than Christmas
when we are so keenly aware
of dreams that have happily come true
and dreams that have sadly failed or slipped from our grasp.

The song may tell us we dream of a white Christmas
but our hearts tell a different story.
Our hearts tell the story of hopes and disappointments,
of joys and sorrows, of blessings and losses.
And often this season finds us to be
anxious, afraid, embarrassed, worried, disappointed or sad --
just like Joseph.

Whether in a dream or more bluntly right here in the scriptures,
whether in an angel’s message or in a simple homily,
the word to each of us is precisely the word spoken to Joseph,
“Don’t be afraid… because in everything, and in all things,
God Is with you: EMMANUEL.”

As it was for Joseph in his days, so it is for us every Christmas.
Being truly ready for Christmas has little to do with
presents to buy and wrap, or trees to decorate,
or cards to write, or baking to do…

Being ready for Christmas means renewing our faith and our trust,
in all the ways the mystery of God’s presence
is weaving itself into our lives:
touching and shaping and turning our lives around
in ways we may never have imagined or hoped.

Consider Joseph’s doubts, his anxiety, his anger…
his regrets, his concern for Mary, his fears…
his wonder, his confusion, his awe…
Imagine him handing his troubles over to God and trusting,
putting his fears aside…

Imagine how Joseph might be our patron saint
as we prepare for Christ’s birthday…

The Child born in Bethlehem is still weaving his way into our lives.
The name Bethlehem means “House of Bread.”
And even this morning the Lord weaves the mystery of his presence
into our prayer at his table
into the bread and wine we offer in the sacrifice of the Eucharist,
making of our place of prayer the House of God’s Bread.

Come, Emmanuel, God with us,
and weave into our lives the mystery of your presence,
the mystery of your love, the mystery of your peace…
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear:
rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel,
shall come to you, O Israel!

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  1. Thank you for this. It is wonderful. I can't say any more because I could never match your words !! but I will be linking to it on my blog( as always).

    Rich Blessings for what I know will be a busy week ahead for you.

  2. I've received two comments, one from a parishioner and one from someone who lives on the West Coast. The commenter-from-a-distance remarked on what he presumed to be a choir joining in on the two songs in my homily and the parishioner was pleased to hear the strength of our
    congregation's singing. LucyG, the "ear-witness" had it right: the group singing on the audio was unrehearsed - I simply lifted my arms to invite everyone to join in singing. The West Coaster was right, too: while the audio gives you our congregation, the choir's voices are also part of the sound.

    More than one person commented on the way out of church that every time they heard White Christmas again this week they'd be thinking of Joseph and the peace and strength he found in his dream.

  3. Here it is Tuesday morning and I just listened to your Sunday homily,but it was exactly what I needed to hear this morning! Funny how that works - Thank you! I miss being one of the people in the pew singing along.

  4. Well APC..here it is Thursday afternoon and I have now just listened to the Sunday homily! It is beautiful and in these days of hustle and bustle it challenges me.
    I listen to two songs frequently during Advent:Joseph's Song by Michael Card and Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant. They always leave me praying: Dear God, could I ever have that depth of faith and courage? Could I ever surrender myself to you in that way? This homily left me pondering those same questions...thanks CP for challenging us once again.


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and PRAY before you think!