Today we remember the silent dreamer, Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. He does not speak a work in the passages that mention him, but his actions speak volumes.
Think about it: Against every logic and perhaps every advice, he accepted the bizarre story of his pregnant girlfriend just because an angel in a dream told him to. The gospel mentions that rather casually, but it certainly couldn’t have been an easy decision.
When Joseph first decided to divorce Mary quietly in order to avoid scandal for her, we catch a glimpse of the kindness of Joseph. Then we’re told that he had a dream about an angel and based on that one dream, he changed his mind and made his life-altering decision to take back Mary plus her child. And we accept all this as though it were the most natural thing to do in the world. Honestly, how many of us make such major life decisions because of a dream, even if it stars an angel?
And a lot of courage and faith has gone into Joseph’s decision. The townspeople have murmured about Mary’s pregnancy. If he played father to the child, everyone in the village would certainly talk about him and even laugh at him behind his back for the rest of his life.
Let’s not forget the night of the Lord’s birth in Bethlehem. Earlier that day, Mary and Joseph were frantic because they couldn’t find a place to stay. The Bible simply says that “[they] laid Jesus in a manger because there was no room for them.” It does not say anything about how exhausted Mary and Joseph must have been or about how Joseph must have felt: Maybe he felt desperate and afraid. Since he was responsible for both Mary and the baby, he must have felt doubly pressured. Most of all, maybe he was bewildered, unable to understand what was going on.
Experiencing all these hardships and uncertainties, Joseph might have begun to wonder somewhere at the back of his mind: Whatever happened to what the angel had promised him in his dream? If the baby was truly the child of the Most High, shouldn’t they have met at least fewer problems? Why was God not taking better care of them and of his own son?
So where was God that day? He didn’t seem to be with them at all. So much for “Emmanuel!” So much for “God with us!” Maybe Joseph was even already beginning to wonder if his dream had been too good to be true.
Today we remember the silent dreamer, Joseph, the husband of Mary, and it’s only right that we give him more credit than we usually do. Without the benefit of certainty and certainly with a lot of courage, he allowed God to revise his dreams.
His life probably continued to be filled with such questions and doubts, too, but what matters is that despite those questions and doubts, he “kept the faith,” and made the choice to live up to his commitments.
We can learn much from this silent dreamer. He let God change his dreams, and in the process, he also allowed God to change the world.
Would you do the same?