“I haven’t any dreams left to dream.” Those are the words of Dolly, one of the residents of the “Island of Misfit Toys, from the 1964 TV special, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Upon seeing this program premiere when I was 7, I discovered an instant and on-going favorite for the Christmas season. As a kid who always felt slightly out of the mainstream, the whole misfit toys thing really appealed to me.
Forty-nine years later a line caught my heart as I watched the show last night. Rudolph, he himself a bit mis-fitty (let’s not even go there, the subtext of that part of the show is too much for me right now), has promised to return to the island and to get the toys delivered this Christmas. There is a big storm and the night draws nigh, and it seems that once again, the toys will not escape their lonely exile.
Misfit toy Charlie-in-the-box resigns himself to getting back in his box and wait until “next year.” Poor Dolly, in all her felted glory sniffs and says, “I haven’t any dreams left to dream.”
The Jewish people of first century Palestine had seemingly run out of dreams themselves. Under the heel of the Roman occupiers, and down on their luck in so many ways, they longed for a delivery just like the toys did. The delivery that they were awaiting was that of the Messiah, who would deliver and redeem them.
Today, the Third Sunday of Advent, is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means to rejoice, and that is what we are doing. The liturgical color is pink, like that third candle in your Advent wreath. In some churches, the priest will be vested in a rose colored chasuble. We are inching our way towards the radiant dawn of Christ’s birth, but first the night grows long and dark. This Sunday is a reminder that the light will come – and that we still have dreams to dream.
For so many of us, this is a difficult time of year. We may be far too busy, we may be sick, we may be unemployed and/or financially overextended,or we may just feel low. Our Scriptures today mean to orient us towards not only hope, but joy.
From Isaiah, we have this opening:
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.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Joy and hope, although often conflated with happiness and optimism are not the same thing. The generous joy given to us by God is within even in the darkest moments, the unhappiest times. Our hope is rooted in God, while optimism is rooted in ourselves.
How do we find that hope when we feel bereft, dry, empty, and out of patience? What does James tell us?
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.
Our Gospel from Matthew reminds us that John, the great prophet with the ultimate foretelling of Jesus’ coming, is fading, the redemptive power of Christ is at hand.
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”
There is a shift, things are changing. When things are at their almost darkest, we are prone to the most discouragement. Like Dolly, we all may feel as if we are out of dreams to dream. Today may we find ways to rejoice in the coming of the Lord, even if we can’t see or feel it. Today may we find ways to encourage others, who have come to the end of their own dreams.
In the TV show, which many of you may already know, just as Dolly offers her statement of defeat, the ringing of bells announces the arrival of Santa and his sleigh. She and the other misfit toys will now be delivered to homes where they will be loved. And in our lives, the pink candle announces that we will be delivered and that love will abound. This is not simply the light of the candle, but the Light of Christ that we await.
Let us light that third candle in our wreaths and in our hearts, shining for not only ourselves, but for the world to rejoice in. The Good News is being proclaimed – and there are countless dreams left to dream, dreams made real in the name of Christ the Lord.