“When God restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” (Psalm 126:1)
There are times when I have a troubled spirit. Life is good, yet the troubles of this life, and our world, can be frustrating. Stories in the news of sexual harassment, possible nuclear war, income inequality, and the deportation of children can cause internal struggle. The brokenness of our world is real. It’s a tension we live in; a tension between the good and the broken.
There are times when I dream of a bright future. I dream of a time when medical advances find cures for common diseases such as food allergies, diabetes, and cancer. I dream of a time when war is no more, so much so that the weapons of war are dismantled and repurposed for life-giving purposes. I dream of a time when income inequality is never talked about. A time when those who have, freely share with those who need, so much so that there is no poor among us. I dream of a time when families are truly filled with laughter and joy, and there is no sadness, anger, judgment, or separation.
As I dream of a bright future I think to myself, this would be the life. This is the good life we’ve always imagined. This is the good life that was promised. This is the good life that God says is available to those who put their faith in God.
But in the present, we live in a tension. We live in the tension of the dream we so desperately desire for the world, and the present circumstances of brokenness. We live in the tension of longing for something good and pure, yet live in the present circumstances of good mixed with evil. We so desperately want to believe that the dream is real, yet we live in the moment and wonder if the dream will ever be realized.
That’s where the story of Christmas makes a difference. Two thousand years ago, God came near. Two thousand years ago the angels announced good news to the Shepherds; “glory to God in the highest and peace on Earth, a king has been born.”
Two thousand years ago God was not silent. God stepped into our world, took on flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. Two thousand years ago God took one of the greatest risks imaginable, God came near in order to save us from our brokenness. And in so doing, God guaranteed a bright future. Because God came near, the bright future we dream about is not just a dream, it is, and will be, reality. The birth of Jesus guarantees the bright future.
It’s easy to lament our broken world; to look around at the brokenness caused by sin and rebellion and grieve our world. Many in the world have already lost hope for a better future, it’s easy to join the chorus of lament.
But the birth of Jesus won’t let us join in the pessimism. The birth of Jesus is a reminder that the world is not falling apart. The birth of Jesus is a stamp of declaration that God still thinks this world, this creation and these people, are worth saving. God came near and restored the fortunes of Zion. God came near, and our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues were filled with joy. God came near, and we declared to the nations “The Lord God has done great things for us.” The birth of Jesus allows us to look at the mess of the world, the brokenness of society as well as the brokenness of our own families, and still have joy.
Yes, there is brokenness, hurt and rebellion; and we mourn and grieve over the brokenness of our world. But, we also face the world with joy. We face the world with anticipation that the dream, our dream of the future (racial reconciliation, end of war, safe places for our children); all of the dreams we anticipate and hope for will be real.
Thus, we address the brokenness of our world with a different attitude. We mourn that our world is broken, but we also address the brokenness with the greatest news imaginable. This world can, and will, be made better. The birth of Jesus guarantees it. Two thousand years ago God came near, and set the world on course for a beautiful future. And someday, God will come again, and the dream will be a reality.
Right now we live in the tension of our present situation and a bright future. We live in the tension, but we live with joy. For we have dreamed the future, and it will be a reality.
Restore our fortunes O Lord, we ask. And the Lord replies, the one who goes out weeping bearing seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy.