Week 3 of Advent | Mark McEntire
Friday, December 21
At no point during my childhood could you have asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and received the answer “A religion professor.” Among the things I remember wanting to be are baseball player, astronomer, basketball player, novelist, and Jacques Cousteau.
As human beings we have the capacity for imagination and wild dreams, but only a tiny percentage of those dreams ever come true. So, what is the role in our lives of all those other dreams?
A couple of our texts for today have to do with dreams that never materialized. The prophet named Isaiah lived in the days of a sharp division between north and south in Israel and frightening international threats against both nations. The book we call Isaiah records a powerful and moving vision. It is part national unity:
The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart the
hostility of Judah shall be cut off (11.13a).
It is also part vengeance:
But they shall swoop down on the backs of the Philistines in the west,
together they shall plunder the people of the east (11.14a).
It is very difficult to match these imagined events with any reality we know about ancient Israel in the subsequent days.
Luke 1.16-17 reports an angel’s words to Zechariah about the coming life of his son, John the Baptist:
He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.
With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn
the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to
the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared
for the Lord.
While John seems to have gained something of a following, and serves in the gospel stories to introduce Jesus, he died an ignominious death as a political prisoner. The dream for his son given Zechariah by the angel is, at best, partially realized.
Advent is a time of broken or unrealized dreams for many of us. The holidays themselves may not live up to the visions that our imaginations are constructing right now. This gives us a chance to recognize how our dreams carry us in the present, regardless of the precision of their realization in the future.
Professor, School of Religion
To download a digital copy of the 2012 Advent Guide, put out by Belmont’s School of Religion, click here.