I’m not a parent, so I may be stepping out on a limb in discussing what the dreams of a parent look like. But not too long a limb, because I do have six brothers and sisters who are parents, plus I had parents myself who had dreams for me.
Exploring the Word
For everything there is a season, an ancient Hebrew sage once told us. The season of Christmas, which lasts for eight days, is surely a time for love. God shows his delight in the human race—yes, us: weak, faltering, faulty, disobedient, and disappointing as we often are.
What is a righteous person supposed to look like? We can make all kinds of guesses, some scholarly, others opinionated. The prophets might declare a soul righteous who walks in the path of justice and peace.
German writer and professional pessimist Franz Kafka wrote in his diary that impatience was at the root of every sin since the Garden of Eden. This insight—from a man who could vividly imagine waking up one morning as a cockroach—demonstrates Kafka’s supreme sense of anxiety at the heart of the human condition.
Everyone beyond grade school age in this country knows the story of George Washington and his ax. On one side of the scene lies the felled cherry tree and an irate parent.
At this point, some of us might like a respite from Apocalypse. After all, it’s Advent now—isn’t this the season for Mary mild calmly awaiting her child? Only in carols and in the lore of culture, as it turns out.
Many of us, admittedly, live in the past or the future a good bit of the time. Past-dwellers can be divided into groups: the nostalgists who think the past is much too good to leave behind and those who rubberneck their personal histories with all the gruesome fascination of a car wreck.
Is it me, or is it the times? Apocalyptic writings used to seem so surreal and unbelievable that those parts of the Bible—say, Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, Malachi, and snippets of Paul and the gospels—just didn’t have a hearing in me. I dismissed those passages as morbid and fantastic, products of an age that didn’t have its act together and could only envision release from its chaos in terms of total annihilation.
Torture, mutilation, and execution are subjects most of us would prefer to avoid. Because we tend to stick to noble ideals in church—unconditional love, justice, peace, charity, morality, forgiveness—it is especially jarring to find a reading like this one from Maccabees assigned a public hearing.
How can you not like Zacchaeus? He’s such a classic nerdy guy, pathetically outcast in nearly every way possible. He’s a member of a despised profession, doubly hated for being so rich at everyone else’s expense. And he lacks such personal gravitas that he, an adult, is willing to shinny up a tree to get an eyeful of a passing celebrity.