December 12, 2007

Living Our Dreams

2007 1534 page5 capf we were to believe Madison Avenue, this, above all other times of the year, is when dreams come true. It’s as simple as finding the perfect gift, having it wrapped just so, and placing it under the tree in time to be opened by surprised, delighted, and grateful family members.
Accordingly, a new car parked in the driveway, a room full of new furniture, a dream vacation, all could easily qualify as a dream come true.
Yet for all its genius, Madison Avenue will never be able to compete with those things that are truly important. When I think about dreams coming true, I imagine a member of the United States military returning safely from one of the world’s battle zones and being welcomed by the embrace of their family and friends. I think of people who live amid sectarian strife in too many parts of the world being able to walk down the street without having to worry about being blown apart by a terrorist attack.
Ask the people who lost nearly all their worldly goods in last fall’s California wildfires, and they’ll likely say the love of family and friends, shelter, financial stability, emotional security, and a strong religious faith go a long way toward fulfilling one’s dreams. Indeed, most people in the world will celebrate Christmas—if they celebrate it at all—with barely enough to stay warm and fed, and with no assurances they’ll survive the coming year without being visited by some natural or human disaster.
2007 1534 page5It’s ironic that a holiday originally designed to commemorate God’s selfless gift to humanity should be reduced to a nearly universal emphasis on selfishness and materialism. Doubly so when, after all the gifts have been exchanged, you still can’t put a price tag on the things we prize most highly: family, friends, shelter, security, faith, hope, love.
If Jesus’ incarnation taught us anything, it taught us that dreams do come true; but not in ways imagined by Hollywood or Madison Avenue. Who could’ve imagined that the power of sin over the human race would be neutralized by the birth of a Baby in a stable? How could anyone have known that the resurrection of One crucified for our sins would give us the certainty of living past this relatively brief, human existence?
Even now, the message, example, and power of that first Christmas is demonstrated in the people—young and old, male and female—who are pushing back the powers of this present world with the principles of God’s eternal kingdom.
In Christ’s name people are being liberated from the endless cycle of poverty and sickness by something as simple as learning to read. In Christ’s name those affected with the results of HIV and AIDS are being ministered to—not just those who are infected, but the orphans and widows left behind by the disease. In Christ’s name prisoners are taught both about the saving grace of Christ and the life skills they’ll need when they return to a free society. In Christ’s name those burdened by a variety of addictions are experiencing freedom and hope through a relationship with Christ and His church. In Christ’s name those exploited by human trafficking are being released from their bondage.
Sometimes we forget that the fulfillment of our dreams doesn’t occur just when our material, security, and emotional needs are met. Our own dreams come true when we give others a reason to dream.
One of the great prophecies of the Old Testament speaks about the future God has in store for those we touch with His love: “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced” (Ps. 126:1-3, NRSV).*
I’m not very good at predicting the future, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the future will contain more of what we’ve seen in the past: more disasters, more pain, more needless suffering, more sorrow and disappointment.
But I also see a countless multitude dedicated, in Christ’s name, to making dreams come true.
*Bible texts credited to NRSV are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission.
Stephen Chavez is managing editor of the Adventist Review.