December 2022

Good morning,

The Christmas story has it all — fulfilled prophecies, an expectant virgin, the Savior's birth, angel's announcing, shepherds rejoicing, a star appearing, wise men and gifts, and even a villain in King Herod.

Oh, and don't forget about the dreams.

We rarely talk about the dreams from the Christmas story — I've yet to see them included in the annual children's pageant, or the choir's cantata. And yet, they play a very significant role as the story unfolds.

The word dream is found six times in the gospels, all in Matthew and all in reference to Christ — five dreams were about His birth and early childhood, and the sixth was concerning His death.

Through a dream…
…Joseph learned his virgin wife-to-be was expecting the Christ-child. (1.20-23)
…the wise men were warned of Herod's evil intentions. (2.12)
…Joseph was told to flee to Egypt with Mary and the baby. (2.13)
…an angel told Joseph when it was safe to return to Israel. (2.19-20)
…Joseph's young family was directed to live in Galilee. (2.22)
…Pilate's wife "suffered greatly" from a nightmare, and warned Pilate to "have nothing to do with that righteous man." (27.19)

Theology must never be built on dreams. However, when God orchestrates them, as He did in the above, you can be sure there's a divine purpose behind them.

Several years ago, a panel of renowned psychiatrists and neuroscientists gathered at Harvard University for a debate. The marquee in front of the venue read: Dreams: where do they come from and what do they mean?

Not surprisingly, the auditorium was jammed.

After the cordial introductions and perfunctory niceties, the presenters unpacked their spirited theories — each in a rather self-assured manner. In my best boiled-down summation, here are their four basic answers:

PhD #1

  • "During sleep the brain retraces the day's activities without the distraction of consciousness. Those activities are cataloged and then filtered through the cerebrum, which houses our emotions motor. If that motor becomes anxious by what it sees, it flares-up images and storylines that create dreams. So, if you have a bad dream, blame your cerebrum."

PhD #2

  • "No, no, no! That's hogwash! Dreams occur because, while sleeping, the brain has time to sort through the real-life traumas we face, even as far back as childhood. The brain analyzes this data in hopes it can produce defense mechanisms to protect us against future threats. This process creates all kinds of dreams. So, blame your past."

PhD #3

  • "No, no, no! That's ridiculous! While we sleep, the brain is busy purging itself of negative thoughts and harmful memories — deleting them in the same way we delete computer files. However, these negative files have many layers, requiring multiple views. The more we revisit them, the weirder the dreams become. So, blame the purging process."

PhD #4

  • "No, no, no! That's dumb! Dreams are the brain's workshop, designed to organize and problem-solve the issues we face during consciousness. However, life's problems come in various sizes — the bigger the problem, the more energy required to solve it. This energy creates sleeping stress, and that stress causes dreams. So, blame the problem."

Thank you Harvard for that definitive explanation.

On the other hand, scripture gives us a much simpler explanation of our dreams:

  1. We dream because we're too busy. (Eccl 5.3)
  2. We dream because we have evil or false intentions. (Jer 23.32)
  3. We dream because God is speaking to us. (Gen 28.12-15)

It was this third category of dreams that unveils much of the Christmas story. And the content of those dreams perfectly parallel the role of a pastor…

  • To make the Savior known, as the angel did in Joseph's dream.
  • To give guidance to those who are searching for Him, as God did in a dream for the wise men.
  • To give direction to the people who love Him, as God did through a dream for Joseph and Mary.

Yep, the Christmas story has it all. And we're the honored voices who get to tell it.

A very merry Christmas from all of us to all of yours.

Ron Walters
Ron Walters
Salem Media Group

© Copyright 2022 by Ron Walters

Ron Walters