Scott Bader-Saye Meditation

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Matthew 11:7-15

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 24 , 2013  

The time is almost here. Expectation builds throughout the four weeks of Advent to this holy night.  Mary and Joseph mingle in our minds with the Sugar Plum Fairy, Ebenezer Scrooge, and George Bailey. Theological and cultural images intertwine as the divine and the human kiss one another in the child about to be born—"Emmanuel, God with us." To say these words is to make a leap of faith born of dreams.  Literally so, in the case of Joseph.  Ready to dismiss Mary quietly, Joseph learns in a dream the truth about the child in Mary's womb. And the course of history turns on this man listening to this dream.

In a scene from her novel The Illusionist, Anita Mason describes the Apostle Peter wrestling with a dream he has had while in prison. "What did a dream mean?" he wonders. "Was it a sign? . . . What use was a sign, when you had to read it backwards?" Dreams as signs are understood less in the moment than in retrospect. Did Joseph know what "God with us" was going to mean? Likely not. Jesus reshapes our imagination of what is possible so that reading the sign backwards we apprehend "God with us." And in this new imagination Sugar Plum Fairies become wisps of divine frivolity; Ebenezer Scrooge becomes a redeemable man; George Bailey becomes an unlikely banker-hero; each a sign to be read backwards—not simply back from the future in which their storied reality has become part and parcel of how we in this time and place experience Christmas, but backwards to Jesus himself, to the life that signifies in all future signs of wonder, redemption, and grace.

Emmanuel, who came to Joseph in a dream and who turns even our dreams into signs, grant that we may be a people ready to see visions, dream dreams, and read the signs of "God with us." Amen.

Scott Bader-Saye, PhD
Academic Dean
Helen and Everett H. Jones Professor of Christian Ethics and Moral Theology
Seminary of the Southwest