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Words That Need Redefining: Dream 1


Issue 286

Welcome to the New Series of WORKTALKweekly
We continue our series looking at words that need to be redefined but this week sees our series overlap with a five week advent series. This week we introduce the theme, and over the next four weeks we will develop it.

#5 Dream

You probably have at least one in your team or organization. If not, almost certainly amongst your friends or family. You call him or her a daydreamer – and when their names are mentioned all who know them raise a knowing eyebrow or two in recognition of the description.

We have other forms of the idea applied to subtle variations in behaviour so we label someone ‘a bit of a dreamer’ or we refer to an attitude as ‘walking around in a dream’.

There are occasions when a plan is presented and the finance department or other formally or self-appointed reality checkers, reach for the phrase ‘dream-on’ in order to identify the quality of the proposal – perhaps adding the softer phrase ‘you must be dreaming’.

The message is clear: In today’s level-headed, hard-thinking, goal-oriented workplace the word “dream” is regularly associated with illusion and equated with the trio of the unreal, unrealistic and unreliable.

For many, of course, God comes into the same category. I have just read an article in a national newspaper calling for scientists to speak out for a rational, secular society. As a scientist myself, this always seems to me to beg the question as to whether humans are, in reality, rational – given the state of the market at the time of writing rationality seems to be only a part of how we behave – and sometimes a small part of that – but I digress.

The point is that the concept of God is, in many circles, thought of in the same terms as dreams. Even those who don’t deny his existence can harbour a sneaking suspicion that he is somewhat illusory.

So when you come across the phrase ‘God spoke to me in a dream’ you encounter a perfect storm of unlikely happenings. A dreamer – already labelled unrealistic, has combined with God – already labelled illusory to come up with a proposition – already considered unreliable. Now add two more aspects. Would you choose a dream as a way of communicating vital information? Would you choose a tradesman such as a carpenter, to receive and handle such information in this form?

We have now arrived at the Advent moment. The most important project in history is being implemented. The plan is of utmost importance – it is complex, dangerous and enormous. It is about to hit a major problem in the form of a Jewish tradesman who is planning a course of action which, if carried out, would sabotage the big project right at the start. So God communicates in a dream.

The content of the dream is. Starting with removal of fear, the message is that he should marry a woman pregnant with the Son of God by the Holy Spirit, who would go on to rescue us from ourselves.

As a result of the dream Joseph marries her, stays celibate for nine months and alters the entire course of his life – and for that matter, global history.

God specialises in bypassing prejudice, ignoring stereotypes and bucking conventions. Using a carpenter and a dream He invites us all to listen, to risk and to obey. Not surprising when you see the Son who arrived at the first Christmas – starting as He meant to carry on.

You may want to consider whether God is still in the dream business. Over these Advent WORKTALKweeklies we will look at four more so that you can make your mind up. You can then choose your own meaning for the phrase ‘dream on’.


Matthew 1:20-21

20 But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

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Series: Words That Need Redefining
Module: 7
Season: Advent
Daily Guide: No

Tags: dream, dreamer, supra-rational

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Geoff Shattock

© Copyright 2020 Geoff Shattock

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