This week we begin our yearly journey to the Christ child of Christmas. Our theme comes from the Psalms, which is new for me so it promises to be a fresh and challenging journey.
Today our focus is on Psalm 80 where the theme of restoration is clearly developed in verses 3, 7 and 19. Notice the repetition and intensification:
Verse 3: “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.”
Verse 7: “Restore us, O God of hosts.”
Verse 19: “Restore us, O Lord God of hosts.”
Each “Restore us” is the imperative of a Hebrew verb meaning to turn or return. Here the sense is a request that God “return us” or “bring us back” or “refresh us.” The meaning of the psalmist is clearly that only God can restore Israel to what God originally fashioned Israel to be and only God can restore us as well.
If you have ever seen a God-shaped restoration or perhaps even been on the receiving end of one, then you know how incredible it can be. While doing research for this series, I came across the true story of a long-neglected painting hanging in Venice’s San Salvador church.
Identified as a Renaissance masterpiece by Vittore Carpaccio, the 16th century Italian painter, the dirt-encrusted Supper at Emmaus, depicting the resurrected Christ meeting two apostles in a country inn, was thought to be a poor copy of a 15th-century work. Its discovery as a Carpaccio, worth an estimated $50 million, follows the restoration of the canvas by the Save Venice campaign.
It was initially passed over by Save Venice because it was too dreary, but a closer inspection of the work a few years ago by two top U.S. and Italian restorers convinced Save Venice to fund the project. After the removal of three layers of over-painting what emerged was a sumptuously colored, finely detailed painting. The date 1513 at the lower right, along with stylistic and historical clues, led to its identification to Carpaccio.
What can be said of paintings can also be said of human beings: our true value comes out only after a restoration! This year as you begin your journey to Bethlehem, pray this simple prayer, “Restore me, O God!” Restore to each of us this year, O God, the hope of the ages, the peace of the heavens, the joy of our salvation and the love for a lifetime.