Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent 2021: Advent Dreams
As I started preparing for this homily last Sunday evening, I took a little time just trying to settle into the season. The weeks before and after Thanksgiving had been hectic and I really hadn’t had much time to even notice, much less reflect upon the beginning of the new church year. So, upon returning from yet another commute from Madison to Boston I settled into a chair in our living room, put on some traditional Advent music, lit a candle and tried to clear a little internal space to prepare myself for this holy time. After about 30 minutes, I picked up the laptop, opened a search engine and typed the words “advent dreams.” The first site that came up was from a group that calls itself “the local church.” And there I found these words:
Psalm 126 opens with the line: “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” What does it look like to live as those who dream? The prophets, the psalmists, John the Baptist, Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, Simeon, Anna, the shepherds and the Magi – they were all dreamers. They received, discovered, and responded to God’s dreams for the world. In Advent, we step into the mystery and awe of God’s dreams and pray they shape our reality.
I closed the laptop and sat in the candle light and simply repeated over and over to myself the phrase “God’s dreams.” What does God dream about? What does it mean for me to step into this mystery?
The readings today provide insight into what God dreams. From today’s gospel it would seem that God’s dreams are pretty modest – a dream that we would treat each other with simple, common decency: being content with enough, not extorting, sharing with those who are in need. Yet, how much different would our communities, our nations and our world be if we could learn to walk in the mystery of even God’s humblest dreams?
But, God being God, also has larger dreams. In the reading from Isaiah we hear the prophet speaking to a community of exiles living in the squalor of a Jewish slum along the banks of the river in Babylon about 26 centuries ago. They had been the elite of Jerusalem at the time of it’s conquest, brutally dragged on foot more than 500 miles across the desert, many having first been blinded and put in chains.
In the words Isaiah speaks to this despondent group of refugees we learn that God’s dream for all of us is nothing less than spectacular. Mountains and hills, rivers and marshes, all the obstacles to their return home will be removed. Even the blind shall be able to walk the paths on which God will lead them.
What does it mean for us to step into “the mystery and awe of God’s dream” this Advent?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that there are more than 84 million displaced people across the globe. Many are in camps that are little more than concentration camps. Our advent dream, God’s dream for us, cannot ignore this reality. To dream with God, we must commit ourselves to making our homes, communities and our nation a place of welcome, not fear. To dream with God, means that we labor to smooth the path for others, removing barriers of bigotry and ideology. It requires of us that we set aside the false gods of selfishness, privilege and indifference.
Speaking to refugees on Cyprus on December 3, Pope Francis had this to say:
…God speaks to us through your dreams. The danger is that many times we do not let our dreams in, we would rather sleep and not dream. It is easy to look the other way. And in this world we have grown accustomed to a culture of indifference, a culture of looking the other way and thus sleeping peacefully. Yet that way it is impossible to dream.
God speaks through your dreams…God calls us not to be content with a divided world, content with divided Christian communities, but to journey through history drawn by his own dream: the dream of a humanity freed of walls of division, freed of hostility, where there are no longer strangers, but only fellow citizens…fellow citizens who are diverse, yet proud of that diversity and individuality, which are God’s gifts. Diverse, proud to be diverse, but always reconciled, always brothers and sisters.
This, I believe, is God’s ultimate dream: that between all peoples there will be this sense of being one family. That we will care for each other as sisters and brothers. That is a worthy Advent dream-the fullest expression of the God who dwells among us.