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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

An Angel in a Dream

"But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit."

Matthew 1:20 NKJV

With this devotional we are about to end one year and catapult into the new one now just around the corner. We are about to begin the ninth year of weekly meditations, accompanied by a daily Bible reading plan, with the joy of offering a service established over time and enjoyed by thousands of believers. I have chosen for this inaugural 2024 reflection to be inspired by Joseph, the putative father of Jesus. In the nativity narrative offered by Matthew's gospel, his figure is as central as that of Mary in the evangelist Luke's account. The carpenter is engaged to the young woman, and the two are close to marriage (1:18), since the Jewish betrothal did not go beyond a year. When Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant by the Spirit, he goes into deep crisis; he is bewildered. Mary cannot convince him, cannot offer plausible explanations, so he is the one who has to evaluate what is happening and decide what to do: he is maturing the idea of leaving her secretly to avoid any infamy (v. 19). Just as an angel had presented himself to Mary, the same happens to Joseph, the only difference being that the visitation takes place during sleep. This is a detail that distinguishes all the Gospel accounts of Joseph's life and the four events recounted. The angelic visitation reassures him ("do not fear") and gives him firmness and awareness ("it is the work of the Holy Spirit").

Joseph does not stagger in any of the circumstances, not even when he is sent on the run by Herod to Egypt. Li will know how to wait patiently for new directions. The dream is not so much the fulfillment of a wish or concern, but a real contact with the world of the supernatural. He appears so familiar with that kind of experience that he does not doubt in the least. What is more, Joseph does not utter a single word: something to be emphasized and from which we would have much to learn. His strength is in the actions he carries out. Joseph needs no words. In his doubts, in his torments, in his night watches, an angel came to tell him what to do, and he did not hesitate, nor did he ever object, certain of what he saw and heard. And when he was afraid, on the return journey from Egypt, without his asking for it the angel gave him an alternative. Even God can change itinerary without changing His ultimate plans. Joseph's sleep is a deep dimension in which a person is totally alone, a level we cannot reach if we are distracted or alienated: it is where God speaks, where you speak to God and God speaks to you, enlightening you and clarifying those facts of life so difficult to understand.

I appreciate about Joseph not only this ability to listen, but also the strength and courage to make the right choice at the right time, though not knowing where that choice will lead him or what will happen, but knowing that he is in communion with God, and trusting blindly. It would be wonderful to realize this attunement, even when we do not understand where we are going. It is not a matter of going off the deep end, but of keeping in step with God, staying within a plan that I do not know and may discover later, or may never fully understand. Personally, I can confidently declare the words of the praying man, "I patiently waited for the LORD, and he inclined to me and heard my cry" (Psalm 40:1). I am sure of that. I assure you that I am still waiting. What? Not for him to hear me, but for him to answer me, to show me the way, to open a door, to show me clearly what to do in this new year. I hope that the dimension of "sleep" as a direct relationship with God can be the gift of the New Year. God speaking and revealing Himself. To you, too! He suggests what steps to take, even if sometimes they are easy, sometimes very difficult or even impossible, and give you the courage to accomplish them without too many questions because what is next no one knows. An easy scenario may open up or it may get complicated: that is the Christian life. It remains a mystery to be carried on with the presence of God, who will be found, sending the "angels." Let me now give you a fraternal hug and raise for you and your loved ones a sincere prayer for a 2024 "full of divine dreams."


Weekly Bible Reading Plan #1

January 01, Genesis 1-3; Matthew 1

January 02, Genesis 4-6; Matthew 2

January 03, Genesis 7-9; Matthew 3

January 04, Genesis 10-12; Matthew 4

January 05, Genesis 13-15; Matthew 5:1-26

January 06, Genesis 16-17; Matthew 5:27-48

January 07, Genesis 18-19; Matthew 6:1-18

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