In his 1971 song “Imagine,” John Lennon shared his vision for a world in which bridges were built over divides, peace reigned instead of war, selfless concern for others replaced selfish ambition, and global harmony was found.
“Imagine” is a perfect title for this hope-filled ballad because it takes daring imagination. It requires a wildly extravagant and seemingly impossible dream to conceive of a fractured, fissured and fitful world transformed into a place of harmony and love.
It is said that the artist Pablo Picasso once stated that he painted objects as he thought them, not as he saw them.
It seems that Picasso was suggesting that the imagined can be more powerful and persuasive than the actual.
Therefore, the force behind artistic creation is the power to imagine the world for what it could be and seek to capture it in whatever medium the artist may choose.
For Lennon it was song; for Picasso it was art. For us, the question is: What channel will we choose?
During the season of Advent, we are called to imagine the world not as we see and know it to be, but as we think and hope it could be.
We are called to seek after healed and holy eyes that see the possibility and promise in others, in ourselves and in our world.
We are called to long for healed and holy voices that sing about an imagined world of harmony that we pray becomes actual.
And we are called to pursue healed and holy hands that seek to imagine and to paint a world in which hope, peace, joy and love abound.
“You may say that I’m a dreamer,” Lennon sings, “but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will live as one.”
“I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them,” Picasso proclaims.
Such daring and, perhaps outlandish, imagination will be perceived as folly, as Lennon and Picasso knew full well.
Yet, maybe, just maybe, such foolish dreaming will turn out to be the wisdom and the power of God.
Maybe, just maybe, by painting with our thoughts rather than our eyes, we will discover the news that is joyful for the oppressed, healing for the brokenhearted, release for the captives, freedom for the imprisoned and redeeming for all people.
Maybe, just maybe, the only hope for new creation is found in the outlandish dreams and exuberant thoughts of prophetic poets who dare to sing, paint, write, speak and work for an imagined world.
Perhaps it is just such an act of daring imagination that inspired Dickens to place a word of limitless blessing in the mouth of a child: “God bless us, every one!”
May we cultivate our imagination in this holy season so that we can join with the dreamers who catch hold of a vision of a world united from all that divides and degrades, and who proclaim a vision of a world in which all are blessed, each and every one.
Catching hold of this vision in which all are blessed and in which all find hope, peace, joy and love may just be the last, best hope for the world.