Wandering through the darkness of daily life, we stumble and fall, hurt ourselves and others, crash into obstacles and leave a trail of debris behind us. We long for a lantern that will light our path, a beacon to guide us and lead us home. And so we light a candle -- an Advent candle. This is done on the first Sunday of the Advent season, and again on the second, third and fourth.
Each Sunday we light another candle and say, "Restore us, O God." Restore our hope. Restore our peace. Restore our joy. Restore your love.
We know we need restoration.
Psalm 85 begins with a line that was spoken by the people of Israel, back in their homeland after a time of exile in Babylon: "Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob." The people are thankful that their long captivity is over, and that God has forgiven their iniquity and "pardoned all their sin."
But still, something is missing.
The emptiness they feel is very similar to the void that remains deep within us. We know how fortunate we are. We appreciate God's favor toward us. But we wonder why everything we thought we wanted still isn't enough. We wonder why good fortune in this life gives us everything but a sense of peace.
Saint Augustine had it right when he said, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."
True peace will escape us until our restless hearts begin to rest in God. Serenity cannot be granted by a grade, a job, a large home or a fancy car. It comes to us as a gift from God, and it includes forgiveness of sin and the restoration of our relationship with the Lord.