The film Imagine That is about high-flying executive Evan Danielson and his young daughter Olivia. Evan’s career is not in a good way, but when he starts to spend time with Olivia and so enters her world of wonder and imagination, it helps him find a way forward. Not only that but their relationship is vastly improved. They even cook burnt pancakes together and eat them with ketchup, chocolate sauce and mustard. Now what’s not to enjoy about that?!? This is a film which celebrates the power of the imagination, and my wife told me recently that one of the things that imagination helps is problem solving. It enables us to see a different way forward. Helps us imagine alternatives. When you think of initiatives like the Christmas Shoebox appeal… well someone had to imagine that. And look what a difference it’s made.
In the Bible the prophets are hugely imaginative. In this Advent time we might find ourselves reading Isaiah, who predicted much about Jesus. At the start of Isaiah 11 he pictures a dead stump, and not just any dead stump, but one belonging to famous King David’s family, the line of Jesse. The stump seemed dead – i.e. the promised line of peace and prosperity had been squandered by leaders choosing the wrong paths – but no!! Wake up!! There’s a new shoot growing there, impossibly so. And this new shoot represents a king who will have knowledge, understanding, devotion to God, one who delights in all that is just and true and loving. All of this summed up in a picture of dead stump and a new shoot. Imagine that! Jeremiah buried his pants, Ezekiel saw a valley of the walking dead, Isaiah imagined a virgin bearing a child. Their imaginations knew no boundaries, and their inspired visions led to a future of hope and life. Totalitarian leaders shut down creativity – it’s too dangerous because it imagines another way. But Jesus celebrates the possibilities, and comes to us with two fistfuls of stories, so that we may imagine ourselves in them and find welcome and purpose rising in our hearts.