4th Sunday in Advent: Dreams

Christmas is so close by the fourth Sunday in Advent that you can almost taste it. Judging by the crowds at the airport on Friday morning, many people are already en route to or at the home of extended families or friends, or engaging in other last minute preparations for Christmas celebrations. The sights and sounds of Christmas are in our churches, homes, workplaces and more. Light, music, scents and sparkle abound.

When we are children it can be hard to wait for Christmas morning to arrive. My husband likes to tell the story of how when he was a child he was not allowed to get up until a reasonable hour to open presents. He awoke when it was still pitch dark out, long before dawn, and decided it would be ok to move his clock back just by five minutes. After all, nobody would notice a five minute difference. Then a little while later, he moved the clock back again, just by a few minutes. And a few more times, as he lay there in restless anticipation. Finally he decided to get up and awaken his parents, only to find that they sternly told him to go back to bed—-because all the little accumulated turnings back of the clock had led to his waking everyone up an hour early, at least!

As adults, maybe the waiting for Christmas is the converse: it’s all the little actions to prepare for Christ’s arrival, akin to the smallest movement of the hands on a clock, that get us prepared for Christ’s coming into our world. Not the big presents that need to be wrapped or long drives or flights, but the little tiny movements of the heart: moments we choose to be patient or generous, forgiving or affectionate with one another, the little actions of love that slowly lead to larger results, and the small ways we work for justice so that God’s love can reign again.

Joseph dreams and acts. Think about how human history is changed —the way divine history plays out as it does, too—all because he listened to a dream. Dreams can be soft things: simple with clear messages.

The other night I dreamed I was running a long race and met someone at the starting line who told me that I’d better hurry up and change into my athletic clothing and shoes, out of my work clothes. I realized I was going to run a longer race with more hills than I’d ever run before but there I was, committed. On awakening, the “angel” at the starting line who encouraged me reminded me of people in my life who do encourage me to “run the race” of which St Paul speaks (1 Corinthians 9:24). The road of life is long but we have many people on our way to encourage us and accompany us whether in actions or in prayers or dreams. And we are called to encourage others, too, as they go through the hills and valleys of life.

Joseph hears a voice that encourages him to trust in God’s direction and not simply in his own ideas of right and wrong. He wants to set Mary aside, as would be reasonable from all the appearances, but God tells him there’s a bigger mission, a longer road to follow. Although Joseph can’t see it yet, his place in helping Jesus to grow and to flourish is a major part of the history of salvation. But the angel’s directions are themselves not all that complicated: Take Mary as your wife into your home. Name the child Jesus. Do not be afraid.

What are the small ways we can follow God more closely? How do we bring God’s justice into the world five minutes at a time? How do we proceed along the road with patience as we await the coming of Jesus into our hearts and our world?

5 thoughts on “4th Sunday in Advent: Dreams

  1. I don’t understand the first question:”What small ways can we follow God’s less?”
    Me:God’s less what?


    1. Was just a typo from doing my blog post on my phone rather than laptop while traveling. Thank you for catching the error!


  2. May Christmas be deeply Blessed And, a wonder-filled New Year, too.
    . Thank you for who you are and all you offer us via your posts.

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