Sitting on the couch, my then seven-year-old daughter was studiously writing in her notebook. “Good,” I thought. “She’s doing her homework.”
Still, I asked her what she was doing, and she said, “I’m writing out my Christmas list, Dad. Do you want to hear it?”
“Sure,” I said.
I sat down on the couch and five whole pages later, she finished and said, “This is my Christmas list. It isn’t my wish list.”
“Oh,” I said, “Will your wish list be shorter or longer than this list?”
“Shorter,” she said. “I know Santa can’t bring me everything I want.”
Of course, when I was a seven-year-old, I also loved to flip through Christmas catalogs and jot down everything that grabbed my imagination. Like my daughter, such exercises also helped me learn how to differentiate between the things I wanted, the things I truly wished for, the things I needed (or thought I needed), and the things I really had no need for at all.
In many ways, the weeks leading up to Christmas, what we call Advent, are also about taking time to differentiate between our wishes, hopes, and needs. However, and here’s the kicker, Advent reminds us that it’s ok to make wild wishes, even when those wishes might sound a little unrealistic or naïve to some.
Often drawn upon during Advent, the Hebrew Bible shares some amazing wishes despite (or maybe because of) their purported naïveté. For example, how astounding would it be to have weapons beat into ploughshares? How world-changing would it be to unlearn the ways of war? How about the wolf and the lamb, two-well known “enemies,” living together in harmony?
Imagine someone running for office with planks like these in their platform. Think they would get very far? Probably not.
And yet, every year, Advent rolls around and dares us to imagine a different kind of world. Advent dares us to keep on wishing, no matter how wild those wishes might sound. Advent reminds us that something has not yet been fully born in this world and yet is at the same time always being born every time we dare to be the peace that we hope and wish for, no matter how unrealistic and naïve that hope and wish might sound to some.