Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
December 18, 2016
“God is with us.” Matthew 1:23
A dream can be a powerful experience. It can disturb us or leave us quite content—a bad dream versus a good one. Obviously the dream of St. Joseph is a grace from God. He receives a special divine communication which announces to him the good news of the conception of Jesus (Matthew 1:20) and fortifies him for the task that lies ahead. St. Joseph awakens and obediently follows the angel’s instructions (Matthew 1:24). No questions are asked. There is no hesitation.
I would wish to return to a point I made earlier in Advent about the importance of Christ as our light. In Advent we are making our way through these shortened and darkening days of winter to the glorious light of Emmanuel coming into the world. As days grow shorter, God’s light grows brighter. This light acts as a counterbalance and eventually overtakes the darkness of our fear. “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23), and “He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
The dream of St. Joseph points to this because dreams almost always occur at night. Here in the night God sends His special message of light to St. Joseph both to inform and to reassure him.
What is our darkness? I leave this to your conscience to answer. What do we fear? We know from both our experience and God’s revelation that sin is the most disruptive moment in our lives. When we embrace sin, a conscious act contrary to God’s will, we set ourselves up for misery, sadness, and ultimately self-destruction.
There is a very good reason why Jesus speaks of failure to repent as darkness. “Take care,” He says, “that the light in you not become darkness. If your body is full of light, and no part of it is in darkness, then it will be as full of light as a lamp illuminating you with its brightness” (Luke 11:35-36).
This light came to St. Joseph in an extraordinary moment of God’s grace, through the singular communication of an angel in a dream. Life was no longer dark for him. His fears were put to rest. There was no sin here, only the light of Grace, and St. Joseph opened his heart to this Grace by obediently accepting the will of God.
Jesus has conquered darkness. His light illumines everything including the darkest corners of our lives overwhelmed with sin and fear and doubt. Through Jesus a dream is fulfilled, and eternal light enters the world. The coming of that light is the fulfillment of many a dream, the dream of prophets, the dream of holy men and women in the Old Testament, and, yes, the dream of the Gentiles that brought the Magi on a journey to Bethlehem. On Christmas morning we awaken from a dream to find it fully realized.
Left to our own resources, life becomes a fleeting dream. Christmas is not about what we do or accomplish. Christmas is about what God has done and is doing. Christmas is all about God fulfilling a dream, definitively and completely. May the light of Christ conquer the impenetrable night and bring the dream to its victorious completion.
Bishop Glen John Provost