“Dreaming the Impossible Dream”
Advent 1 – December 2, 2018 – Year C
In one of his sermons, Dr Paul Wilson tells of Alec. “Alec is a child with Down’s Syndrome who is attending kindergarten. The teachers had all of the children sit in a circle in the classroom. Then each one was asked to say something for which he or she was thankful. Everyone was used to Alec, for whom they would often wait. Sometimes he would answer and sometimes he wouldn’t, and even when he did, he was often hard to understand. When it came to be his turn, they waited, and he got a big smile on his face, and he lifted one of his hands and pointed, first at one teacher and then at the other. He got his big smile on again. And one of the parents who was sitting in on the class noticed that both of the teachers started crying. Some may have found that place holy. But God can be found in any moment, in any place, most surely with the needy, empowering each of us with acts of love.”
Neighbourhood children use the local campus as a playground. They show up on sunny days with their mothers. The other day there was a group of kids kicking a ball, a clear plastic inflatable ball. When the ball came close you could see that it actually was a globe, printed with the shapes of the continents. One boy kicked the ball up and another caught it deftly. “Poor old world,” she said. Her words resonate with us, for these days our earth seems tossed around. Poor old world.
One of the great musicals is Man of La Mancha. Based on a book written in prison by Miguel Cervantes in the 17th century, it is the story of the adventures of an errant knight, Don Quixote, and his companion Sancho Panza. In the musical production by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion, one of the great songs is “The Impossible Dream,” part of which says: “To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to bear with unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dare not go.”
Now that may not be your dream, but we all have dreams. We have dreams for ourselves and for our families. We have dreams for our communities and for our nation, and we pursue these dreams personally and collectively. We work hard to attain our personal dreams and we seek out like-minded people with whom to pursue our communal dreams. In a sense we have a lot in common with the man of La Mancha. In a very real way his song is our song.
One of our great poets, Langston Hughes, writes: “I dream a world, where love will bless the earth .. and joy, like a pearl, attend the needs of all mankind…”
Hughes dreams a world of which the Old Testament prophets would have been proud. Can you hear the prophets sing their Advent song? Can you hear the angels sing their heavenly chorus?
What is your dream? Is it a dream of personal success, a dream of health and happiness? Perhaps it is a dream for peace in our world or simply peace within your extended family. Maybe it is dream of a world free of poverty or cancer, a world in which all God’s children have hope and prosperity. We each dream a world, and that dream shapes us, gives our lives purpose and direction. In that sense, the future shapes the present.
Jeremiah had a dream that God would one day fulfill God’s promise, that God would cause a righteous branch to spring up as a sign, as a symbol, like the “yellow ribbon round the old oak tree” as an indication that hope springs eternal. The situation in which he lived was as ghastly as any we can think of. A terrible threat hung over his head. Yet he refused to give up hope. He had his dreams: the dream of a saved nation, the dream of his people dwelling in security and peace, the dream of justice and righteousness residing in the land, and to the end of his days he hung on to his dreams.
The magnificence of this hope – the audacity of this hope – is the fact that there is no logical or tangible evidence for it. The great gift of Jeremiah, indeed the great gift of Judaism is to hope in the face of no hope, to dream the impossible dream.
Jesus had a dream not too dissimilar from Jeremiah’s, a dream in which he would bring good news to the poor and proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed be free and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4).
Jesus speaks a word of hope. Although we see the tide going out and we cry in despair, we can realize that it will turn and return with new life and new possibilities. We can see such signs as an ending or as a new beginning, as a righteous branch sprouting and bringing with it the promise of new growth. The birth of a new understanding, of a new way of relating, like the birth of a child, is often difficult. As with the birth of a child, a new generation is created whose ways are often not our ways. But underneath are God’s eternal arms, this God who is called Emmanuel, God with us.
So look up, raise your heads, for your redemption is near, promises our God.
In August 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his now famous “I have a Dream” speech in which he said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed …”
It is a dream that echoes that of the prophet Isaiah, “That every valley shall be exalted and every mountain made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places made plain.” (Is 43) Or as we hear from Jeremiah, “I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. I will cleanse them from all sin …” (Jer 33)
All God’s children have dreams, some more impossible than others, some demanding great faith and some requiring great sacrifice, some requiring great patience.
This Advent, I have a dream for each of us, that the baby born so long ago might be born in us. That the child of Nazareth who grew in wisdom and in understanding might also grow in us. That the Christ, the adult Jesus, might teach us how to reconcile and make new. That we might become channels of God’s peace, singers of God’s grace, instruments of God’s healing love, bearers of God’s holy joy.
To that end I want to stand with Jeremiah and with Jesus. I want to stand with those who promote justice and seek peace. I want to stand with those who dream of a new heaven and a new earth. I want to stand with those who seek to make the crooked straight, with those who give of themselves to make the rough places plain and to that end I sing:
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause
And I know if I’ll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star