This year, looking at the nativity narratives, I'm struck how many times Matthew's gospel uses dreams for revelation, instruction, and warning.
I'm lucky enough to remember a good many of my dreams. I'm lucky enough to hardly ever have anything that qualifies as a nightmare (not since childhood). Yet, I can count less than a handful of dreams that ever felt like anything more than dreams.
Did Joseph have other dreams that he recognized as not from God? Did the wise men regularly interpret their dreams as instruction or warning? I admit, I'm not likely to make travel plans based upon a dream Ihad about coming trip.
Of course, I also realize that these are not likely to be historical stories, that they may have been Matthew's way of connecting Jesus (the "new Moses" for Matthew's more Jewish gospel) to dreamers (like Moses' ancestor, Joseph).
Still, I can't help but project my own experience with dreams (tainted as it is with 20th Century theories from Jung and Freud about them) onto Joseph and the Magi. Clearly the ancients were more likely to associate them with messages from the gods. I'm all for shedding old superstition in favor of actual knowledge, but I'm not sure we have a great deal of actual knowledge about dreams. Or at least I don't.
For the record, the dreams that I've had that felt like something "more" than "just a dream" were about dead people. I dream about my (deceased) parents all the time, but there's one dream that I've always counted as instruction from my mother---and I've so far followed it. Another was a dream of a deceased friend who phone-called me from heaven. There was so much of his personality in that dream (right down to his apparently having snuck into an office in heaven to make the call and he might have to hang up at any second!) that felt like an actual visit with him. I told his widow about the dream and she said another of their friends had received a similar dream. But there was no real message in it. Well, except maybe that he was in heaven (with offices and phones?) and okay. We'd talked a lot, as he was dying, about life after death. I guess it had a touch of revelation that this was not the only world we'd know.
I don't know. I don't really have much to say on this Eleventh Day of Christmas. Just speculation and musings (made with a crooked smile as I type).
Some things are just mysteries and part of the journey is learning to live in them.