It would be attention-getting for me to inform you that I sleep around.
To introduce a message, preachers are encouraged to first get people’s attention. Now that I’ve got yours, I’ll direct it to your beds. Though I am the only person living in the Saint Charles Borromeo rectory, it has six bedrooms. None was usable when I arrived but soon parishioners, from the place I departed to the one where I arrived, collaborated to fix up the house, room by room. As we worked, I temporarily made use of various bedrooms. Every once in a while, I will still sleep in a different room and, when I do, I sometimes gain insight to view a particular matter differently or, during the night, even figure out a problem from a new angle.
About one-third of our earthly existence is spent in sleep. The wonder of it all lies in a realm beyond mysterious. We only stay awake until we can’t any longer—and, next thing we know, an opposite force wishes us to wake again. Most of that time, we are out of it—not to participate, never to recall—but during each sleep cycle, we dream. This part, not unconscious or not subconscious, is an un-awakened conscious state in which we tune in to some other weird level of thinking. At Christmastime, kids’ dreams might be visions of sugar plums that dance through their heads. Some mystics believe that dreams hold the key to eternity and that we can receive divine guidance through some of these nocturnal images and insights; and some spiritualists even train their minds to welcome the message by asking for direction in discernment. In the nativity story, Joseph heeded the signals given him by an angel while he was asleep. Perhaps the Bible is suggesting that dreams play a role not only in salvation history but in every age.
I know Catholics who fall asleep with their rosary as they ruminate over their daily joys and sorrows, as well as those encountered by Mary and Jesus. I knew a priest that slept with a copy of sacred scripture in hopes that he would wake inspired to preach and teach more directly from God. I have tried both, with varying levels of inspiration. I know of parents who fell asleep in one of their children’s bed after reading them a story and those who slept in their child’s bed in the kid’s absence in hopes of willing good wishes for that son or daughter. I know of some who at this time of year sleep on a couch by a fireplace with their Christmas tree lights on to seek a share in the magic of this season. I certainly don’t understand the myriad of possibilities that exist in sleep land and dream world; but I know it’s a worthy mystery to explore, a good place to turn our attention.
From Joseph’s journey to ours, Christmas is a time to dream: for peace on earth, a better world, a longed-for gift, holiday snowfall, a long-awaited savior, a glimpse of heaven… In closing, I’ll add that I also know friends who, while sleeping—yet in a conscious state of recognition—have been visited by a deceased loved one or other worldly messenger. Some spiritualists contend that heavenly dimensions and distant shores can be engaged in our sleep and through our dreams. I, too, believe there is a thin veil between this awakened physical world in which we spend most of each twenty-four-hour cycle and the mysterious spiritual world into which we are invited each time we sleep.
I hope you have many sweet dreams of promise in this blessed season of new life.