Tender dreams and the force of joy

By Rev. Anna Blaedel

The Dream Keeper
Bring me all of your dreams,
you dreamer,
bring me all your
heart melodies
that I may wrap them
in a blue cloud-cloth
away from the too-rough fingers
of the world.
—Langston Hughes

I find solace in Langston Hughes’ desire to protect our dreams from the too-rough fingers of the world. He knew, deep in his flesh and blood and bones, that the world of our making is rarely kind to dreamers, or compatible with our dreams.

And yet. The Good News of Incarnation is that God’s dreams—of love, and justice, and compassion, and the healing salve of salvation—are wrapped up, entangled, inseparable from the too-rough fingers of the world. Incarnation proclaims that God is not, cannot be, encountered apart from the rough messiness of our collective life, but is indeed meeting us in, and companioning us through, the roughest of patches, places, and people.

The Revolutionary Love Project recently offered, “Some may see the holidays as a time to retreat from the cascade of crises facing our nation and world. We choose to see the holidays not as a time to try to escape but as an opportunity to ground ourselves in joy. Joy returns us to everything that is good and beautiful and worth fighting for. Joy gives us the energy to continue our labors to make a viable life and more just world. Joy comes when we draw our attention to the present moment—a child’s laughter, a neighbor’s cookies, a lit candle. In a time such as this, joy is an act of moral resistance.”

The Christmas story is about drawing our attention to and grounding ourselves in joy, even as we are caught in a too-rough world of our making. The struggle to loosen the rough grip becomes a spiritual practice of joy. The Joy of God-With-Us is mingled with grief, exists side by side with mourning, knows that pain and death are all too real, but that beauty, and dreams, and heart melodies are, too.

Poet Mary Oliver writes, “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention…Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Taught by logics of dominance to tame the wilderness within and without, we have too often ascribed to God the powers of control, order, and mastery. But a God who comes to us in the form of infant flesh—tender and vulnerable—of refugee flesh—haunted by urgent longings and desperate dreams—calls our attention to the holiness of wildness, and the wildness of holiness, and the Holy’s insistent instinct to meet us in the wilderness of unknown and unknowable futures.

The Christmas story is one of Revolutionary Love, gestating in darkness, coming unexpectedly, liberating us from too-rough forces within and without.

“Revolution:” writes poet Pat Parker, “it’s not neat, or pretty, or quick.”

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel…

I dreamt, dear ones, of a Holy Family, making their way through a wilderness time, and place. Jesus, in this dream, was 7 year old Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin, journeying into the desert with family, fleeing in search of a livable future, her life heartlessly stolen by rough enforcement of a cruel system. Jazmine Headley was Mary, a young mother willing to fight for her young son, ready to resist and persist and speak the truth of her own sacred worth, and the worth of her child. Joseph was Cyntoia Brown, trapped in a dehumanizing, punishing legal system, knowing that for justice to be just it must aim toward restoration and repair, knowing that the fight may seem futile but freedom is still worth fighting for, and all is not lost when we extend care and draw near… God-With-Us dreams of a world without borders or walls, without armed guards or racism or generational poverty, without sexual violence or prisons that profit off pain.

The Christmas story is about joy enfleshed through the song of a young woman, terrified but still singing her heart out about freedom dreams and revolutionary reversals, even as her world is turned upside down.

The Christmas story is about joy enfleshed through the care of a quiet man, terrified but still tending to strange happenings with tender empathy, even as he is well versed in the religious appeal to purity, and practices of inflicting stigma and shame.

The Christmas story is about joy enfleshed through the birth of an infant, dependent and needy and still necessary to the story, a baby who will come to be called Teacher, Prophet, Messenger, Messiah, a Savior whose saving power is subtle: beauty, and truth, and generosity, and gathering people together for a meal, and calling the feared, forsaken, and forlorn by their holy name: Beloved.

The Christmas story is about joy enfleshed through the messages of angels, with terrible timing in terrifying times, speaking into the terror about the deadly consequences of living in fear, and without joy.

Beloveds: The tender bonds of enfleshed life are worth fighting for. Not even the too-rough fingers of the world can destroy the tender dreams and heart melodies emerging as God-With-Us comes to dwell, the force of Joy in this one wild and precious life…

May it be so.

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rev anna blaedel

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