an Advent meditation: hopes, dreams, visions, concluded

In this Advent season, awaiting the arrival of Christmas, I reflect on the hopes, the dreams, the visions of the way I’d like for things and for me to be. I find companionship with John the Baptizer who lived in his own advent-period awaiting the arrival of the Messiah.

In the strength and surety of his hopes, John proclaimed: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” and “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” and “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one more powerful than I is coming…His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

But the judgment dividing the righteous from the righteous, didn’t occur. What did happen was that John, for all his faithfulness to his mission as a precursor, a herald of the Messiah, was imprisoned; caught, captive between bewilderment (was he wrong?) and shame (he was wrong!). In a dungeon, no darker than his inner despair, his hopes dashed, his dreams broken, his visions shattered, he dares to ask a poignant question: “Jesus, are you the one who is to come or must we wait for another?”

Jesus, in compassion, does not ask John to do the impossible. Jesus does not ask John to continue to wait in hope. Jesus does not tell John, “Yes, I am the one.” No. Jesus knows that when hope is lost to speak only words is not merely insufficient, but cruel. Rather Jesus offers John demonstrable, visible proofs, but not the kind John sought. Not clearing the threshing floor in judgment and condemnation. Not more of the way the world already was and is. But rather signs of brokenness made whole – symptomatically, the blind given sight, the sick made well and systemically, the poor given good news and the dead raised. Verily, the way things were (and, as far as one could see then and since then, and can see now, ever will be) was overcome.

Question. Could, would John see the signs? Not simply taking note of their occurrence, but receiving, accepting them as proof of the fulfillment of his hopes, dreams, visions? Could, would John relinquish his hold on his hope, letting go of the belief that the realization of his dream must be as he had envisioned it?

The question is the same for me. Can I, will I see? Can I, will I see in Jesus the fulfillment of my hopes, my dreams, my visions about the way I’d like things to be, the way I’d like to be? A fulfillment that is so extraordinary, unbelievable precisely because it doesn’t look like anything I can envision, for it is other than the way things are and other than the way I am. A fulfillment that in the face of hurt and anger and the sound of the cry for vengeance, especially whenever I hear it within me, forgives. A fulfillment that in the face of need, in compassion, sacrifices its own security to serve. A fulfillment that beholds the world’s brokenness, prays in hope of another possibility, and then acts to bring the dream to life and to light.

In the reflection of this image of Jesus, can I, will I, do I see me?

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2 thoughts on “an Advent meditation: hopes, dreams, visions, concluded

  1. Paul I pray that you do “see yourself” in the reflection of the image of Jesus you describe! We all want our hopes and dreams to turn out the way we want. Why?? Because they aren’t OUR dreams if they don’t! And if they turn out to look like something else, what’s the point??? As Advent rolls on, I ask you to consider this… Suppose the dreams you have aren’t as Lofty or significant as the work Jesus is calling you to do? Would you embrace them? I ask because you recently shared with me a description of your part in a facilitation of a near perfect class where lessons were learned by all but not in the way the class had originally been drawn up. I’m not sure you fully grasp your potential as a post-retirement facilitator of classes that help others see themselves more clearly, growing significantly in the process. I hope that the future for you is one of growth, life and light!! And that you’ll be able to see yourself and Jesus and others see you…. Even if they are vastly different hopes and dreams from anything you’d previously envisioned. I can see it all coming to fruition and the reflection is bright and beautiful. Can you see it too?

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    • Loretta, as always, I thank you for your encouragement. I think, I believe I can envision what you imagine for me, but, frankly, oft only through the eyes of your perspective. Self-questioning is something I do often (and to the extent that it is often, then I suppose I can say that I do it well!). Again, thanks.

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