John the Baptist is a dominant figure in Advent. His call to “prepare the way of the Lord” based on the prophets before him is the whole premise of the season. He awakens us to the work of this preparing: aligning our paths with God, smoothing out what is not right in our living and being aware of the abundant generosity of our God. These are great guides for our Advent days which are far too often consumed with a lot of noise, over indulging and empty commitments. If the work of Advent or these realities feel all too much, may I suggest dreaming. Scripture is full of dreams from Moses to Jacob to Daniel. Think of Isaiah and his dreams of a peaceful kingdom – the wolf with the lamb together, this is an awakening to Advent dreams.
We can also consider Jeremiah capturing God’s words as a promise of this season and also dreams of this season fulfilled: “I have plans for you, plans for your well being, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29.11). John the Baptist had to dream about what he was proclaiming and foretelling. Mary and Joseph had to dream about what would be next and how their lives would unfold? As a fellow Friar recently shared, “We can’t lose our capacity to dream. The word dream is a verb, it calls us into living.”
Now our dreams can lead us into fantasy and emptiness if we let them. However, this is not the dreaming of Advent. Advent dreaming is rooted in the promise of John the Baptist: forgiveness, filled valleys, smooth ways and salvation. These are dreams which are woven into the very heartbeat of God and God’s dreams for all of creation. The beautiful gift of these dreams is that we are invited into making them a reality. This means we can not stay in our comfort zones. Dreams call us beyond the current and offer us a new vision. As religious do we still know how to dream? Have we lost our capacity to dream in our instant world? Can we risk dreaming like our founders/foundresses did? Have our comfort zones become too much like the easy gift card we call the perfect gift? Do we allow new visions to inspire us and call us to smooth paths or is it easier to stay on the rough road because it feels more comfortable?
This Advent we must allow ourselves to dream and we must be brave enough to say to God: “I am listening to you, O God, and how I am part of your dream! You, O God, are welcome here in my dreaming!” Our generous God, who dreamt of being one with us and made it happen, continues to dream with us, inviting us to pay attention to what is being whispered in our dreams and proclaimed in the wilderness. Are we paying attention? That is what this season is about. What are we waiting for?
God of dreams,
you continue to give us messages
through prophets of long ago and prophets of today.
May we attune our ears, eyes and heart
to our dreams and how you speak in them.
Move us beyond our comfort zones
to the valleys which need to be raised
and the paths which need to be made smooth.
Fill our minds and hearts with your message
so, in turn we may share it with those on the journey.
Br. Michael, ofm
Photo Credits: Sharon McCutcheon and Daiwei Lu