Read Matthew 1:18-21
There are dreams, and then there are dreams.
To inspire my dreaming I have these framed words from Mark Batterson above the fireplace in my study: ‘Nothing honours God more than a big dream that is way beyond our ability to accomplish. Why? Because there’s no way we can take credit for it. And nothing is better for our spiritual development than a big dream because it keeps us on our knees in raw dependency on God.’
We all have dreams – our hopes, aspirations and aims of being involved in something wonderful. It’s good to have a big dream which stretches our prayers and stirs us to action. At the first Advent God ‘dreamed big’ of putting right a broken world. That’s why he sent us the very best gift he had – Jesus Christ – as the rescuer. God shows us at Advent that behind something small and seemingly insignificant (like the birth of a vulnerable baby in an obscure land) can be a big dream!
Then there are the other kind of dreams. Dreams that come to us whilst we’re sleeping. Most of the time these are simply the musings of our subconscious whilst we’re in the rapid-eye movement stage of sleep and we needn’t read too much into them. But every now and then a dream stands out. It’s different. It seems to be important and have meaning. Advent has a number of stories of those kind of dreams. So God uses a dream to tell Joseph not to break off his marriage to Mary. God warns the Magi not to tell Herod where they found the infant Jesus. God uses a dream to assure Mary and Joseph some years later that they can return home to Nazareth, as Herod has now died. God sometimes speaks through dreams. Dreams can be a form of prophecy.
None of this guidance through dreams should surprise us. Years ago the Lord promised: ‘I make myself known to them in visions and speak to them in dreams’ (Num 12:6). And he continues to do the same today. So just last week I heard about a man who is considering following Jesus. He has never read the bible but is beginning to do so, thanks to a daily bible app. A couple of weeks ago he had a dream of women going to an empty tomb – basically the resurrection story. The next morning he awoke and the bible reading set for the day on his bible app was that exact story he’d dreamed about the night before, which he’d never read before! God got his attention through a dream and now he’s ready to follow Christ!
Advent is a season for dreaming. For receiving fresh vision for the future and reimagining the difference God wants you to make in your family, workplace and community. But it’s also a time when the Lord may want to speak more specifically to you, maybe even through a dream. If you want to be attentive to him speaking in this way, why not pray the prayer of Samuel (1 Sam 3:10), which he prayed as God was trying to speak to him in the night? I love this prayer, because its no-nonsense words are easily remembered. Why not pray it and see what the Lord does? It’s simply this: ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.’
ACTION: Is there a dream that you think God might have planted in your heart, that you’d love to see happen through you? If so, get a Notebook and write it down. Then write below it the steps you’ve taken so far to realise it. Below that write down the next step you need to take. Why not find time to talk with a trusted friend about this, for added wisdom and accountability?
PRAY: Ask the Lord to guide you in these steps. And invite him too to speak to you prophetically (he could do this in all sorts of ways, including through dreams and visions). Did you pray the prayer of Samuel? Why not pray it again, right now?
A couple of years ago, on the advice of a wise vicar 😉, I decided to try something new for my daily Bible readings. I began to pray the prayer of Samuel before reading the passage. It has transformed my understanding of the Scriptures. Thanks Matthew.