Dreaming of the future Matthew 2.1-12
So, 2021 has arrived. Given all that has happened in 2020, many of us have been trying to think about the coming year. We will have dreamed about seeing people in the flesh, visiting places denied over the past year, sharing food in houses. Our dreams will probably be cautious ones, without a timetable, without too much precision or ambition.
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany and it is all about dreams. The dreams of professional star-gazers that they might be the first to observe something. The dreams of Herod, with a more nightmare quality of competition. The post-visit dreams of those Magi who receive a hint to take the alternative route home. The dream of Joseph (although we don’t hear this today) of leaving his known world and stepping out as a refugee to find safety in asylum. Dreams, in other words, are not always comforting or reassuring. We cannot control what dreams we have.
Much has been written about dreams. They sort out of the subconscious, say some. They reveal the secrets of our hearts, say others. In the bible, dreams are understood as part of the divine revelation. They tell us about God’s vision. The recipient of the dream is invited to go with the flow. Some respond immediately. Think Abram (Genesis 12) or Jacob (Genesis 28). Some resist, as does Peter when invited to eat all sorts of animals forbidden to observant Jews (Acts 10).
The cumulative point of dreams in the bible is that they push in a particular direction. Follow the dream and God’s purposes become clear. Behind this surface layer is a deeper framework. The dreamer is one for whom God is part of life. In other words, the link between God and dream presupposes that the dreamer believes. Biblical dreams are not magic. They are part of an on-going conversation the dreamer has with God when s/he is awake.
We will have dreams for 2021. Our imagination will flow as we think about how we can embrace whatever this year brings. On this Feast of the Epiphany, there is an invitation, too, for us. Like the dreamers in the Bible, 2021 could be a year we regularly tune into God.