One of my favorite movie quotes is from Breaking Away when Daniel Stern’s character, Cyril, daydreams out loud to his buddies: “You know what I’d like to be? A cartoon of some kind. You know, like when they get hit in the head with a frying pan or something, and their head looks like the frying pan, with the handle and everything? They just go boi-ing—and their head comes back to normal? Wouldn’t that be great?”
Indeed, wouldn’t that be great? Cyril recognized the wonderful thing about cartoons…they are filled with such great imagination.
In fact, I thought of cartoons when listening to the first reading from Isaiah this past Sunday:
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
Wouldn’t that be great? Isaiah has such a wonderful imagination! In fact, we’ll hear more of Isaiah’s wild imagination this Sunday:
The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
It’s clear to me that Advent is to be a time of great imagination, because imagination is what feeds hope. To have imagination is not to be out of touch with reality…it is to recognize reality but be able to see beyond it to potential reality. Imagination led Martin Luther King Jr. to see beyond the oppression of racial prejudice and to dream that “one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”
On a less dramatic scale, imagination is what feeds any loving relationship. Think about it. Did you ever look at a couple and ask “what do they see in eachother?” The eyes of love stimulate the imagination of lovers and enable them to see a potential reality that the rest of us may not see. I know that I’m personally thankful for my wife’s great imagination that enabled her to see potential in the person I was nearly 30 years ago!
Advent inspires us to be a people of hope and the first step is to invite the Holy Spirit to stimulate our imaginations so that we can see beyond the darkness of this season and the shadows of this world to recognize a light that is growing and will continue to grow with our help. Let’s embrace our inner Adventist – that imaginative part of ourselves that recognizes reality but sees a transformation coming – a transformation that brings hope instead of despair, peace instead of war, mercy and compassion instead of cruelty, justice instead of oppression, and love instead of hate and indifference.
Wouldn’t that be great?