The season of advent is about being aware of the realities of our world – the dangers and the fears. We can’t ignore reality and there are steps we take to survive, to navigate through the craziness of our lives. But our job is more than that – it’s to see beyond and deeper, to be on notice for the signs of hope and the ways in which dreams will find their way to reality. The signs of disaster are easy to see.
The deficits of time, money, kindness and love are easy to see. Flooding and new letters of the Greek alphabet are easily in our sights. It’s easy to notice the aches and pains. Can we see the signs of hope? Can we define what we are holding on to?
Our first posture is to be awake to constant glimpses of everything that is beautiful, sacred and amazing – by watching, by being attentive. We have to practice at noticing them, then commit to building what we see there and making it real in our lives. That is what we’re made for: for building the present.
We live in a star seeking society. We love to make someone into more than they can ever be and then discredit and dethrone them as soon as they disappoint us. We love pinning our hopes on another and downloading our responsibility as a species onto a few prime candidates. And this season of advent invites us into a counterculture where we resist the urge to pin the tail on yet another donkey, where we counter the quest for a messiah by assuming our personal and collective responsibility. It is the time to become the ones we’ve been waiting for.
We’re all familiar with dreams – the good and the bad. Christmas is a season of dreams. In the original Christmas story, no fewer than eight stories use dreams as a way suggest an inner knowing. Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and Magi all have dreams that help them get in touch with wisdom that guides them through the twists and turns of the story. Christmas is also a time that we all are inspired to think and dream about generosity, giving and taking actions that dream of a better world for all.
Our spiritual ancestors in the Jewish tradition understand that it’s the interpretation that gives dreams their meaning. We are the interpreters of our experiences.
If this legacy of our spiritual ancestors tells us anything, it’s that we’re not meant to experience our dreams or ideas of our future passively. We have inner wisdom available to us – in our experience, feelings, the guidance of our inner compass, in our sense of ourselves and the world.
From there, we can dig below the surface, to be the interpreters of that wisdom to bring our whole selves to what it all means. This is an awesome power that can effect great change.
And once we tune ourselves into that wisdom, then the hard work of digging in to what it’ll take to make the world we want come to pass. It won’t happen alone. It will happen when we find others who share those dreams and when we work to make them so – socially, politically, relationally, in whatever ways we might work for change. It is the work of Christmas, and it all starts with being bold enough to have the dream in the first place.
There will be no return to a pre-COVID world. Just as there was no return to a pre-manger world for the characters in the nativity story. This is our world now, but what it will become is still in the making.
Moment by moment our world is made, as we turn with our experience and turn into our learning. As we turn with all that we have seen and heard—softened, changed, more grateful and intentional.
Aware of the difference between deferred plans and devastation, we turn into our deepness, contented and craving less.