We often associate Christmas, with dreams. We hear the old song, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…just like the ones we used to know,” or “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams. I don’t know why… maybe it’s because Christmas is an event we so look forward to…because as children, we would lie “snuggled in our beds, while visions of sugarplums danced in our heads.”
Christmas is often associated with dreams.
I wonder…what are you dreaming about this Christmas season? What are your dreams tonight?
- Some of you may be dreaming about the presents you hope Santa brings
- Some of you may be dreaming about Christmases past, and the people you miss
- Some of you might be dreaming about the college acceptance letter you hope to receive.
- Some of you may be dreaming that you’ll receive good news, at your next doctor’s appointment
- Some of you are dreaming that your children will thrive, or that your family will reconcile, or that God will feel closer
We all have our dreams, don’t we? And there is just something poignant about our dreams at this time of year.
And as we gather on this holy and precious night, I have to wonder: “what were Mary and Joseph’s dreams?” They had to have dreams too, didn’t they?
Maybe they were dreaming about their new future together…about what it would be like when their child was born…about raising him to be healthy and full of joy, and about watching him mature and grow into a young man.
Of course, we have heard the story, and we know that Jesus’ actual birth probably did not go exactly as Mary and Joseph had dreamed.
My favorite Christmas carol is “What Child is This?” In that carol, the question is asked “Why lies he in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?” “Why lies he in such mean estate…” Isn’t that the question Mary and Joseph were asking themselves that night, so long ago? Why are we stuck here? In this place? In this stable? For Mary and Joseph, this was not how they dreamed of bringing their new son into the world. This was maybe less a dream, and more a nightmare.
Why lies he in such mean estate? Well, the scriptures tell us that it was because there was no room for them in the inn.
You have to remember that Bethlehem was a small town with a population of probably around 300. So, it’s not like there was a motel to check in to. When we hear that there was “no room for them in the Inn,” what the scriptures literally meant was that no one there would let them stay in their guest room. No one would welcome them. Which was weird.
It’s weird because Jewish culture valued hospitality and welcoming the stranger above almost anything else. It is almost impossible to imagine that someone would not be welcomed in. So, it is actually shocking to think that Jesus, the Savior, the Messiah, would lie in a feeding trough…would lie in such mean estate. And yet, here they are.
And every year, we hear this story…and maybe we shake our heads in disbelief at those people of Bethlehem, who had no place for Jesus. Those people who had no room for God.
I mean can you imagine that God shows up, and they say “nope.” No room.
The people of Bethlehem had no place for Jesus, and to be honest, I kind of want to judge them. But then I stop. And I wonder where in my life do I have no place for Jesus?
Where do I not allow Jesus to go? Where is there no room for him in my busy schedule…no room in my daily routine…no room in my parenting, or priorities, or politics, or finances, or my attitude?
When do I tell Jesus that “you know, I’d rather gossip and complain than make room for you?”
There was no place for Jesus in Bethlehem. And there are many places in my life where I tend to hang a “no vacancy” sign for Jesus. And maybe it’s just me…but maybe not.
Maybe there are some places in your life where you have no room for Jesus. I actually suspect that this is true for all of us.
It is when we recognize that we too, just like the people of Bethlehem 2000 years ago, also fall short…also forget hospitality…also forget to create space in our lives for Jesus, that our Christmas story tonight reminds us of something powerful, and important:
God too has dreams.
Yes, God has dreams.
- God has dreams for the infant Jesus
- God has dreams for the world
- God has dreams for our church
- and God has dreams for each one of you.
I can’t help but wonder, what are God’s dreams like? What are God’s hopes and visions?
At a church in upstate New York, it was time to hand out roles for the annual children’s Christmas play, but what role should the teacher give Avery? Avery was a nice boy with a good heart. But he was socially kind of awkward, and he struggled in public settings.
The teacher decided on the innkeeper. It was an important role but required Avery only to shake his head and say one line “Sorry, we’ve no room.” Avery grinned from ear to ear when he learned of his important role and he couldn’t wait for the big night.
It arrived soon enough, and the play was proceeding according to plan. Mary and Joseph had traveled to Bethlehem and came to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked on the door and it opened to Avery. “Please sir, do you have a room we could take?” asked Joseph. Avery nailed it. He shook his head and replied. “I’m sorry, we’ve no room”.
Now the boy playing Joseph was a particularly confident child, and while the script called for he and Mary to turn away at this point, Joseph decided to exercise some dramatic license. “But sir” he said to the innkeeper, “My wife is about to have her baby and we need somewhere to stay. Couldn’t you find us a room.” Avery’s face went white; this was not in the script! He paused for a moment before repeating his line. “I’m sorry, we’ve no room.”
“But sir” replied Joseph, “We’ve traveled such a long way and we’ve nowhere else to go and my wife is very tired. Surely you can find us a room somewhere.” Avery bowed his head, shook it sadly and said, “I’m sorry, we’ve no room.” Forlornly Joseph and Mary started walking away. Avery, now fully into his role, felt shamed and saddened. A tear trickled down his cheek. Then his voice was heard calling out. “Wait! Please come back. You can have my room.”
My friends, this is God’s dream for the world. I’m convinced that God’s dreams of a people full of compassion…of welcoming hearts…that people who give from their abundance.
And God’s dream, it is bigger than we can imagine:
- God’s dream is that we don’t have to figure out how to make space for Jesus within us because we recognize that Jesus is already here.
- God’s dream is that we welcome Jesus, in the faces of friends and the faces of strangers, because as he taught us, when we welcome others, regardless of who they are, we welcome him.
- God’s dream is that we will be so faithful to Jesus, that his Gospel will take flesh here and now, within each of us.
I’m not going to pretend that tapping in to and understanding God’s dream for our lives is easy. It isn’t. Because there are times when God’s dreams can feel distant, difficult and shrouded.
But we can have faith in God’s dreams for us, because we know how this story ends. Yes, we know that God’s dreams came true, they were fulfilled, in the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus.
And we know that even though Bethlehem told Jesus there was no place for him, and even though we sometimes tell Jesus the same, Jesus just keeps showing up.
And Jesus keeps offering grace, and life and forgiveness and love and healing and hope and wholeness and renewal. And this God keeps showing up for you and with you. We have a God who will never, ever abandon you.
In God’s dreams, you matter. Yes, you matter to God. And you matter to the people around you. In fact, you matter more than you can possibly imagine, more than you can possibly dream.
So back to my original question. What are you dreaming about this Christmas? Only you can answer that. But know that on this holy night, God dreams. God dreams about you. God dreams that you know that you are loved, that God is with you, and that you always have a place. Tonight, may God’s dreams, become your dreams. May we live and follow the newborn Christ. And may your dreams be full of grace, joy and love.
Thanks be to God!