Wednesday of Advent III – Psalm 126

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
    we are glad.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
    like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
    shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    bringing his sheaves with him.

I served a parishioner who had done a great deal of family history research. It was quite a family. One ancestor had been a Hessian mercenary who was transported to America at the time of the American Revolution. Others had been involved in the Civil War. One of his favorites, however, was the story of a great-aunt. She had been a little girl when her family homesteaded in the days of conflict with the Native Americans. A band of the Kiowa people had swooped in and killed some of her family and snatched up the little girl and her older sister. Eventually the sister, my parishioner’s ancestor, was recovered by her family, but, unknown to them, the younger girl remained among the Kiowa, grew up, married, and had children.

My parishioner had wanted to know more about his great-grandmother’s brief sojourn among the Kiowa and during that research reached out to the Kiowa tribe. He discovered that the younger sister had in fact survived and he had a great number of Kiowa cousins. He is regularly invited to powwows. The family lore only knew that this little girl was part of the family that had been lost in this raid. Suddenly she was not really lost. Her children were returned to the family.

The psalmist remembers the day that the children of Israel were allowed to come home from their exile. They were like people who dreamed. My friend remembered walking through a gathering of the Kiowa tribe and being embraced by hitherto unknown family members. He said it was “unreal,” but I think he might have meant it felt like a dream.

Sometimes I am discouraged that so much has been lost. Like all people, I have grieved at the death of loved ones whom I miss. I am no longer young and the body which I took for granted when I was 25 is reminding me of my own mortality with some aches and pains that were not there before. I have wandered the ruins of monasteries and churches in Europe, trying to imagine a world in which such structures lived. The parochial school I learned in as a child has closed along with the university at which I used to teach. This list could go on and you could make one of your own.

The children of Israel in exile surely felt that all was lost. But it was not. God had restoration in mind. A new king, a new way, something utterly unexpected; what was lost returned to them. I will wander from person to person like a man in a dream when I get to embrace my old friends and family on the day of Christ’s return. I went out in weeping but return in joy; I sowed my tears and bear home sheaves of joy. This psalm will describe me and how I feel.

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