First Sunday of Advent
In this season so many of us have dreams of sweets and games and toys. We have dreams of dinners with family and friends. We have dreams tipped off by cherished songs and lead by hopes we may be surprised to find we have nourished in secret a long time. In the northern hemisphere, with the longer nights than days, we're in the dreaming season. Whether we live with frosts lit under starlit skies or sunlight glittering off the sands and water, we are in the sparkle season, where so much seems possible.
It is good to dream like this, for such dreams show us where our hearts long to be. Yes, it may be yearning for the latest gadget and what it can do, and it also yearning for more: love, laughter, awe, wonder, renewal.
Defeat is when we no longer dream, when we are too tired for either dreams or nightmares, when we are restless and afraid so that the only visions we have grasp our hearts and squeeze tightly.
Preaching a word of encouragement to a people in exile, Isaiah is calling out to the dreamers and to those suffering defeat and dwelling in the morass of despair. Isaiah 2:1-5 shares a phrase we've heard before, from Micah 4:3, about beating swords into plows and spears into pruning hooks - a dream of peace, of labor for one's family and one's self and not in slavery or to fend off creditors, a dream of good agricultural times.
When we're struggling, that's such a good dream to have. Visiting with anyone fleeing violence, or anyone who has tried to flee and not found a way out, a dream of peace is so often deeply cherished, but not to be whispered aloud because it seems so impossible. When we're struggling, it is so easy to go with the evidence of our immediate surroundings and decide that cruelty will win the day, that callousness towards the suffering is how we are meant to live. When we're struggling, it is easy to make the theological interpretation based on how we feel and the evidence of how we witness we are treating one another face to face and by policy and governance, that the ones who are not struggling have some great holy favor and the rest of us are being punished.
Isaiah offers those of us who are struggling a reminder of a different dream, one that breaks into reality with our efforts, when we together turn back toward the holy mountain -- toward the awe and wonder and love that lifts us up and out of what drags us down. Isaiah reminds us of the twinkling starlight overhead and the dreams that pick us up. Isaiah invites us to dream together - that this journey is not alone and cannot be alone.
We have that same reminder in the Chanukah story: yes, the Maccabees had to fight for what they loved, but the real miracle was in the clean-up afterwards, the oil of rededicating ourselves that lasted eight nights and days. We need a little sparkle, a little reminder to keep dreaming through the hard work of caring for what matters, of keeping on for freedom and in freedom, of keeping on with our faithful promises and aspirations, the ones that call us away from what is expedient to what may seem impossible until one day peace is the way we live, until one day no one hungers, until one day every child may have a good education, until one day we learn each other's songs and can sing them together with love for our neighbor, no longer estranged from one another.
I love a little sparkle, most especially the twinkling eyes of excitement and joy and love when people get together to find a better way forward. I love the sparkle that lights someone's heart when communities gather and offer each other a little more hope for tomorrow and a little more joy in today. I love the sparkle that spreads like a wave of stars shining after the cloud breaks away and the storm passes when we dream together and go together to where our hearts long to be: free, loving, caring, whirling in wonderment.
In this season let us dream together of the goodness that can be, of dreams that may seem impossible in our hardest moments, of peace and kindness and enoughness, of working together for a harvest of hope and a harvest of mercy, of offering one another and this world the glittering light of joy when we go together to make a better world real.