The Rev. Laura Fitzpatrick-Nager is a Senior Associate Minister at The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme in Old Lyme, CT. She and her husband, Paul, live in Old Lyme and enjoy celebrating the birthdays of many nieces and nephews.
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV)
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Reflection: In Dreams
Who doesn’t love a good birth story?
My seven year old nephew, Fitz, waits all year for his next birthday party and spends months planning it. Like many of us, he loves to hear his mother tell the tale of the evening he was born. The re-packing of the overnight bag, the rushing to the hospital, the dreaming about who this darling child of God would turn out to be, and the sleepless nights spent trying to select a perfect name.
In the gospels this time of year, we get to hear two birth narrative accounts. Like Mary’s “yes” to God in the gospel of Luke, I never tire of hearing about Joseph's timely dream. In Matthew’s version, we can almost hear Joseph’s voice. In this first of three dreams Joseph has, we gain a glimpse into what’s going on inside this soon-to-be-adoptive-father’s heart. A child of the Holy Spirit is on the way!
Far from perfect, this nativity news must have ushered in some deep trouble as we learn that Joseph plans to quietly break his engagement to Mary. Yet, thank goodness, like his ancestors in faith before him, Joseph was a dreamer! God’s angel announces the advent of the new being birthed out of chaos and fear. Joseph chose to listen, to wake up to his new life and the responsibilities of love awaiting him.
Isn’t that the best gift, the good news? That God shows up in all kinds of ways in our shadowy days- in dreams, in heartache and in the unexpected. Perhaps, like Joseph, we might have the courage to listen into the dark to the stirrings of God. In this time of holy waiting, we are invited to awaken to one another with fresh eyes and wide-open hearts.
I remember holding Fitz for the first time the morning of his first day on earth. Not having children myself, this bundle of squirming joy took my breath away-and he still does.
Just the other day, after picking him up from his elementary school, Fitz reminded me of the dreams he has for when he grows up. ”I wanna be an astronaut, an actor or librarian but, we’ll see!” he told me with great confidence. May it be so, I whispered to God. May it be so that all our children live out their dreams in freedom and be celebrated on each birthday with tidings of great joy.
Joseph’s dreaming is a reminder to me to date to heed the quickening of the Holy Spirit calling out in my heart. As we journey ever closer to that first Christmas in the manger, let us give thanks once again for the stories and songs we love that feed our dreams in the dark and open our hearts to love alive again.
May the holy mystery of Emmanuel, God-With-Us, surround your home and hearth this Christmas and always with dreams of hope, peace and joy. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving or suffering after mass shooting in New Jersey last week left 6 dead including one police officer and 3 others injured
- For the people of the Philippines where a 6.8 Earthquake left a child dead and several people injured. This is the 5th earthquake to hit the region since October
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For carolers who visit shut-ins and others for whom travel is difficult
- For the Season of Advent
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches In Your Prayers:
Buckingham Congregational UCC
First Church of Christ Congregational, Glastonbury
Church of Christ Congregational
First Congregational Church of Granby, UCC
South Congregational Church, UCC
This Week in History:
December 22, 1984 (35 years ago) Bernhard Goetz, a 45-year old white male, shoots four unarmed black men after they ask him for money on a New York subway. The subsequent trial caused considerable controversy in New York and around the country as many believed the shooting was racially motivated. Goetz pleaded innocent claiming he was begin robbed and shot in self-defense, while the prosecution maintained that the youth were only panhandling, were unarmed, and that Goetz taunted his victims before shooting them. Goetz was cleared of attempted murder and assault charges in 1987, but was convicted of illegal gun possession. He served 250 days in prison.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
The Rev. Laura Fitzpatrick-Nager is the Associate Pastor at The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme.