What kind of dreamer leaves his home in Ur near the Euphrates River and travels 1500 km by foot and donkey to Bethel where God says he will one day live and raise many children? Of course, that is Abraham, the father of the Jewish people.
What kind of dreamer tells his older brothers and his father that one day they will all bow down to him and that he will serve them? That was Joseph son of Jacob who provided for his people in Egypt.
What kind of dreamer tells thousands of people that he will lead them out of Egypt into a place with enough land for everyone and enough food to feed the thousands? And that was Moses, the rescuer of the Jewish people.
What kind of teenage dreamer waves goodbye to his elderly mom and dad, turns his back on the opportunity to become a priest in the Temple of God, wraps himself in burlap, ties a leather strip around his waist, goes out into the wild and lives off the land eating honey and locusts, then preaches a very unpopular message, and invites others to join him? Of course, this is the life of John the Baptist.
The Bible is full of dreamers who took God at his word and trusted his promises and we do see that it leads to some strange ways of living.
Today, as we patiently wait for Christmas, let us consider the life of John the Baptist. I say patiently wait because in God’s economy, there are always great preparations to be made for Christmas. But, it is not about the preparations we are used to making. It is not about gifts and wrapping presents and Christmas music. It is not even about families and food. In God’s economy, the preparations for Christmas involve the preparation of people’s hearts and the paths people will take. There are stars to be moved to the right place for people to see them at just the right time, there are angel choirs that must be arranged, there are Eastern Wise Men that must be alerted, there is a prophet who must be born, and there is a great silence that must be broken.
John the Baptist came from a long line of dreamers and priests. You have to be a dreamer to trust that what you do in the temple of Jerusalem is pleasing and acceptable to God. John the Baptist was the son of a priest, Zechariah and Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth. The priests of Israel were of the tribe of Levi, and were descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses. (cf. Exodus 28:1). John’s mother, Elizabeth, we are told, was also a descendant of Aaron, being called one of the daughters of Aaron (Luke 1:5). John’s ancestors on both sides of his family had for many generations led the people of God in ceremonial worship and in teaching people to trust in God. They had seen the miracles of God leading his people.
I pray that we have not forgotten how to dream in this world. Perhaps our dreams have become smaller over the last few months. We dream of handshakes and hugs, we dream of being able to travel for vacations in other countries, we dream of preparing a feast and having our whole family in our home. These are good dreams and good hopes, yet they are not our best dreams and our best hopes for our world.
Let us not lose our ability to dream. What kind of dreamer believes in community when all around is fractured and in disarray? What kind of dreamer dares to dream of a better world?
God has always called people to dream dreams and see visions, and then he calls them to move and make those dreams a reality. We are not a static people. We are the people of God moving forward with him. He calls us to a higher calling with bigger dreams.
We can dream of a better world. Many of you put aspirational dreams up on your social media feed. This is good. Some of us dream of welcoming refugees to our country, we might even dream of a world where people of colour, and aboriginal people, and others who are different would be treated fairly.
Do we still dream of the good news? We have been forgiven! Our sins, past, present, and future, have been forgiven. Now we can dream of a better world; now we can dream of an eternal future.
Psalm 85:1, 2, 8-13 (NLT)
1 Lord, you poured out blessings on your land!
You restored the fortunes of Israel.
2 You forgave the guilt of your people—
yes, you covered all their sins. Interlude
8 I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying,
for he speaks peace to his faithful people.
But let them not return to their foolish ways.
9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
so our land will be filled with his glory.10 Unfailing love and truth have met together.
Righteousness and peace have kissed!
11 Truth springs up from the earth,
and righteousness smiles down from heaven.
12 Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings.
Our land will yield its bountiful harvest.
13 Righteousness goes as a herald before him,
preparing the way for his steps.