I don’t need to remind you today about the headlines in the news, do I? They cause you either to shake your head or to clench your teeth or to walk around with a knot in your stomach. Maybe even to wonder if what happened in San Bernandino could ever happen here. Even the ornaments on our trees and the planned festivities of the season can’t keep the headlines and the feelings they evoke at bay. Can they? Yet, here we are 12 days from Christmas.
Lighting Advent candles.
O come, O come Emmanuel.
What child is this?
Angels from the realms of glory wing your flight o’er all the earth.
And a bit later some of you will drop off food for the food pantry so others…strangers to most of us, but neighbors to all of us…will have enough food to eat next week or the week after. And some of you will buy presents not just for your own children, but also for children whose families don’t have the financial resources you and I do. And some of you make a donation and buy a dove and add it to our dove tree.
Yet, as simple as they all are, all of them are acts of defiance.
Acts which declare that what we hear in the news or read in the headlines does not have to be.
Is not how it should be.
And, not what God intends.
And, will not have the final word.
And, added to all that…
So we don’t forget…
And, don’t get swallowed up by hatred and despair…
And don’t lose sight of what God does intend, we read the Bible together.
This morning the Magnificat.
Mary’s vision of what might be.
Her own song of praise and defiance in the midst of a world which was also filled with violence and deprivation and oppression. The Roman Empire lined the roads with crosses. A vast majority of the population lived in hand to mouth poverty. And, she lived in an occupied land. And, yet she dreams….
My soul magnifies the Lord.
And, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For God has lifted up the lowly.
And, filled the hungry with good things.
And, so I wonder…
In your best moments, what world do you dream of?
When you look at your children or grandchildren what tomorrow do you see?
When your heart breaks in sadness, for what do you hope?
When you watch the news and want to scream, “Why?”
Why do we do this to each other? How can we treat each other like this?
How would you want us to treat each other?
What vision has God planted in your heart and mind and soul?
Can you see it?
Can you name it?
Can you hold onto it like you are holding on for dear life?
Because maybe you are.
I have told this story before.
But, maybe like all good stories it is worth hearing again.
I learned it from Bonnie Gordon, a good friend who works for Bridges to Community. Bridges to Community is the organization with whom we work when we go to Nicaragua each February to build homes. Bonnie’s niece was getting married. A destination wedding at a resort in Cancun, Mexico. When Bonnie arrived at the airport, she was met by a representative from the resort and led to the bus that would take her and the other guests to where they would be staying. On their way to the resort the representative spent the time telling everyone on the bus all the amenities the resort had to offer. Until, that is, the bus began to go through the poorer section of Cancun. Then the resort representative instructed everyone just to look at her and not to look out the windows. To pretend they had blinders on. Then, as they approached the resort, the representative told them it was okay to once again look out the windows.
Nicaragua, where Bonnie has lived and worked for more than 20 years, is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. She works in communities which have an overabundance of substandard housing and limited access to potable water. And, where access to healthcare is also limited and where education beyond elementary school is almost unheard of. And, here she was on a bus going to a resort in Cancun and told not to look out the windows.
Bonnie tells that story and speaks about the work she does and ends the story with something like this:
We all live with blinders on.
The challenge for us is to take our blinders off and to see the world as it is.
With all of its beauty and pain and dreams and challenges.
And, the moment you do that, your world begins to turn right side up.
Bonnie’s story shares the same refrain as Mary’s story.
And, the same refrain as our story, when we dare to remember and to hold onto and to not forget what the world might be like when we imagine the world at its best. You and I, as Christians and as People of Faith, need to see and to remember what a right side up world looks like. Because when we see it and remember it, then we can begin to do those things in our own lives and in those places where we live and work to help that world become THE world.
How did the song go?
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I am not the only one.
Yes. I am a dreamer.
Doing my best to catch a glimpse of God’s grand dream meant for us and for all. Are you?
And, I stand in a long procession of dreamers.
My soul magnifies the Lord.
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
I dream of the day when swords will be remade into plowshares.
And spears into pruning hooks.
And, when peacemakers will be blessed.
And, nations will learn war no more.
At the deepest and best of who I am and what I know and what I believe,
That is what Christmas is about. That is what we are getting ready for.
Can I get an Amen?