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Another Perspective

Christmas and Dreams

St. Matthew's account of the birth of Jesus is filled with dreams. This reality is generally ignored by contemporary Christians. Reread the first two chapters of the Gospel of Matthew and you will see that the birth event would have been very different - if at all - without the dreams and Joseph's conviction that God was speaking to him through dreams.

C.G. Jung, who spent his life studying dreams, observed that "the longer a dream remains spontaneously in memory, the greater is the importance to be attributed to it."* This is especially true of the earliest dream a person can recall.

When Dr. Marie-Louise von Franz studied the dreams of children, she found that "a child's earliest dreams often manifest in symbolic form the basic structure of the psyche, indicating how it will later shape the destiny of the individual concerned."**
The earliest dream that is recalled is usually a nightmare.

The following is an example of this process in action. The dreamer has graciously given me permission to share his dream with you. He was 2 1/2 or 3 and living in Bombay, India when he had the dream.

"I am in my crib and awaken to see a Black Angel descend through the ceiling and onto the floor. With its wings spread, it approaches the foot of my crib and through the crib bars its wings turn into hands and start tickling the bottom of my exposed feet. In terror, I awakened (in the dream) screaming, and my father comes in and starts wrestling with this angel until the angel finally leaves and flies through the ceiling and disappears. (End of Dream)

My father then comes into the bedroom and I tell him what happened. He tells me it was "just a dream." Since that time, I have been unable to sleep with my feet uncovered even the hottest of summer nights."

This boy, when he was preparing for his Bar Mitzvah prior to this 13th birthday, was assigned Genesis 32 for the Torah portion of his initiatory ceremony. Genesis 32 recounts the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel of God. Jacob is injured during the encounter but is also blessed before the angel departs. Jacob prevails.

While he was still young, the dreamer and his family moved to Los Angeles, the city of angels. He studied medicine and became a psychiatrist. Years later, when reflecting upon the importance of the dream for his life, the doctor wrote:

"I have come to see this dream...led to a lifelong relationship between [my] ego and the greater Self as it tries to explore the deeper meaning to the Spirit World. In a clinical sense I can see this as my struggles with the darkness of depression and finally a healing and rebirth. In my work as a psychiatrist, it is my daily confronting the darkness in my patients and through persistently working and wrestling with it, eventually try to help my patients prevail. To be a therapist, one has to go to the underworld and learn that territory well, if ever one is to re-emerge to the light of day. So through this struggle, dark is transformed to light and death to rebirth.

This early dream was a roadmap to my destiny although it only became clear to me later in life. Therein lies the value of tapping into the unconscious as frightening as it may seem at times. The purpose is for healing and vision."

Recall your first dream. Write it down. See if the images point to your life path in some fundamental way. Then offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for entering your life this way. Finally, remember the Advent name for the coming Christ is Emmanuel, which means, God with us.
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* Jung, C.G. "The Theory of Psychoanalysis" (1913) in The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, vol. 4, para. 475.
** von Franz, M-L. "The Process of Individuation" in Man and His Symbols, C.G. Jung, ed. (New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1970)168.
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