Op-Ed: December Dreams

By Rev. Terry Burke, Special to the Gazette

In an ancient Greek church in Nazareth, there is a fresco showing Mary riding on a donkey, with Joseph holding the toddler Jesus on his shoulders, as parents do. In the painting, the Holy Family is fleeing to Egypt, escaping a murderous tyrant. Crossing the Sinai desert, perhaps they used the gold given them by the Magi to bribe Egyptian officials.

Ancient stories have modern connections. This fall, I spoke at rallies for Vinny Quirino and Denis Lemos, Brazilian-born engineering students brought to this country as children. Vinny and Denis are leaders of the Student Immigrant Movement, supporters of the DREAM Act that would provide rights for young people brought to, and raised in, our country by immigrant parents. After long legal struggles, both recently learned that they will be allowed to remain in what for them is their country, the United States of America. Others are not so fortunate. The Obama administration is on target to deport a record 1 million undocumented immigrants of all ages. Some commit suicide, as 18-year-old Joaquin Luna did recently in Texas.

We gather this season and retell the stories: the story of the birth of a divine child (Christmas), the story of miraculous candles (Hanukkah), the story of the rebirth of the Sun (the solstice/Yule), and stories of cultural survival in community (Kwanzaa). These stories illuminate our connections and responsibilities as humans. They help us dream possibilities of love and justice, to see with new eyes the holy families, sacred communities and miraculous individuals around us.

In the words of humorist Abner Dean:


Remember the Word?

The One from the Manger?

It means only this—

You can dance with a Stranger.


Dream and dance with joy!

Rev. Terry Burke is the minister of First Church in Jamaica Plain Unitarian Universalist.

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