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advent 1: what are we waiting for?

Isaiah 2:1-5 + Matthew 26:36-44

· lectionary,fiction,novel,advent,theology

Dreams don’t come true because you have them. They come true because you choose them.

Those are words spoken to Ana Kilvale, the protagonist of my fantasy novel The Place Where Magic Begins. Like most people, Ana has dreams. Unlike most people, her dreams have have a way of coming true. Literally, that is.

Well – mostly literally.

The Place Where Magic Begins is about a lot of things. The human relationship to nature. The human relationship to the self. Creativity. Friendship. Grief. Trauma. Healing. Recovery. Homecoming. Love. It’s also about Dreams: what they tell us about who we are and who we might become; what it means to live in the tension between what is and what might be; what makes dreams come true – and how much of that “true-coming” lies within our choice.

Dreams don’t come true because you have them. They come true because you choose them.

The Hebrew prophet Isaiah knew that well. In an ancient Near East wracked by war and conquest, witnessing the destruction of his people Israel and the First Temple at the hands of the Babylonian Empire, he had a dream. A Dream-with-a-capital-D, as Ana would put it, the kind you just know is going to come true: swords beaten into ploughshares (2:4), every nation streaming into a rebuilt Temple that will be “a house of prayer for all Peoples” (56:7), men and women (and those who lieth betwixt) moving all together in the light of hope, and peace, and joy, and love (2:5).

It’s a magnificent dream, as beautiful and heartfelt as the many dreams we cherish for our own lives, our own world. Perhaps we long for healing from trauma, of kintsukuroi wholeness in the wake of grief. Perhaps we long for justice and peace among the peoples of the earth, an end to exploitation and oppression and torture of the Earth for gain. Perhaps we long for liberation from want and fear, white supremacy dismantled and capitalism defanged, that we might live the kinds of lives—build the kinds of communities—co-create the kinds of worlds we have always yearned for in our heart of hearts.

Dreams don’t come true because you have them. They come true because you choose them.

Isaiah knew that too. It’s not as if the swords become ploughshares all on their own. They must be worked, beaten, melted down and shaped anew. Heat, pressure, resistance, transformation. I have a bottle opener on my keychain made of Peace Bronze, that is to say, recycled nuclear armaments systems. All the weapons of war we despise must be undone and re-forged, and that takes time, and intentionality, and hard fucking work. We must be clear what we want to make with that now-malleable alloy. We must be careful not to rebuild the old weaponry of scarcity and fear in a new guise, with a new model number, just because that is what we have always known.

And damn it all to hell (bless it all to heaven?), we must be willing to disarm - unilaterally. Take the first step, now, regardless of who follows or who doesn't. Act, now, in hope, in full awareness that the dream is not reality…


But isn't that what Advent is for? It’s a season for gaining clarity and preparing the way, a time for taking the first step and discerning the next one, and the next one, and the one after that. No excuse to wait passively, this Advent season, no spectators to the show. Rather, we lie "in wait," watchful and aware, because you never know when the thief will come (Matthew 24:43-44). You never know when the long-sought-after day will dawn, or when the first tender shoot will spring forth from the dark, mothering earth. So you’ve got to be ready.

Dreams don’t come true because you have them. They come true because you choose them.

May we choose our dreams this Advent: personal, corporate, cosmic alike. And may we not waste another minute.

What are we waiting for?

Amen, --Tom

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