Restore us again, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3
The people of Israel had a roller coaster ride with staying in touch with their calling as God’s people. They saw the changes in their turbulent history as markers of falling away from God and being restored. It tended to be that those rulers who turned away from God also sucked the assets out of the land leaving people at the mercy of the foreign nations with which Israel was surrounded.
This idea of restoration is a good one. There are a plethora of TV shows restoring everything from chairs to houses, from pictures to old warehouses. Restoration takes what is old, what seems lost, what is broken and brings new life into it. When something is restored even with the most careful of historical accuracy, there is usually going to be a slight variation to the original. Many TV restorations go much further, transforming things and spaces into something very different to look at than they were.
If we are restored, as individuals and God’s people, we will never be exactly the same as we were before. Whether we are changed so subtly that it is hard to see, or so radically that it is hard to ignore, the experience of wilderness, of being away from God, changes us.
Wilderness, exile, persecution – all are places of longing. We too long for God, that is a human trait, to long for otherness, for something beyond ourselves, no matter what we call it. As we long for the restoration which God is bringing at Christmas, let us also listen for the longing of the world around us and work out how to let the truth of the Incarnation shine through us, that all may see the salvation of our God.
Lord, when I wander, restore me. Give me a longing for your presence. Help me to hear and see the longing of those around me, that I may bring light to those in darkness, and hope to those who are afraid.