This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Advent day 22: Celebrating God’s restoration

Jonah Yang is the pastor of Peace Mennonite Church, a Hmong congregation in Hickory, North Carolina.  In June 1975, his family escaped from Laos to Thailand due to war. Pastor Yang says, “When my life was hard, God was there for me. He placed me in His good hands. Then, He gave me love.  Even though my family and I were immigrants, He restored hope in me and sent me forth. Being a refugee was a disappointing label for me. However, God had arranged for me to have an opportunity to transform myself to be a better Christian, and also to have a chance to come to the United States with my family to restart a new life.” Pastor Yang is married to Memee and they have seven children between age five and 26.  

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans[a] of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be our peace
when the Assyrians invade our land
and march through our fortresses.
Micah 5:2-5 (NRSV)

In the summer of 2009, I went to join a family celebration of homecoming for a child who had been separated from their family since January 1976, after the Communists took over the country of Laos. During those days in Laos, any families who didn’t have money to pay for their travel expenses would be left behind. This family had walked days to reach the Mekong River to cross into Thailand, but because of their family size, there were not enough resources for everyone to cross. The whole family could either stay or pay the impossible full price to cross the border.

In the Hmong tradition, boys had higher priority than girls, because he would be the one that would carry on the family name. This family had no choice. They had to send their only son across the river to survive in Thailand just to maintain their family name. The son arrived safely in Thailand, and also had the opportunity came to the United States, but his family had to return back to live in the mountains, hoping for survival.

Micah 5:2-5a talks about how God is going to restore the people of Israel to be as they were before.  God opened doors and also closed others. God had to put them into a post of waiting for a short period of time until everyone was ready to accept consequences.  Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites (verse 3). 

Micah talked about God’s pending judgment for the people of Israel, but God is also faithful to His promise and is going to send them a helper.

God chose a small town called Bethlehem. Bethlehem was chosen because it had a good reputation. Jacob’s wife, Rachel, was buried there, and it was the birthplace of Israel’s greatest king, King David.  Then God sent Jesus, the Savior, to be born there.

Jesus was born into the world, not to be the ruler of everyone, but to be with God’s people. However, the people of Israel were wondering when the new king was going to stand up from the palace to speak to them in person. They forgot what was happening outside the city where the shepherds were gathered around their sheep.  And the Israelites also forgot that the promise of the Lord had been revealed by sending His son down to earth to save those who had been lost for years and to break the chains so that everyone can be free from sins.

Imagine the difficulty of Mary and Joseph, this young married couple, who had to leave home for days. They traveled over a great distance to find themselves a comfortable place and wondering if God was going to lead them through this temptation.

But God doesn’t forget His covenant.  He was preparing for them a place of refuge with people they never expected.

For the last 2014 years, God has fulfilled His promise by sending His only Son to save us from our sins. And the lost son I mentioned above was able to reunite with his family who he had been separated from for the last 30 years.

Today we come together as a family of Christ to remember Israel’s hope for the Messiah to save them, to forgive them, and to restore their lives.

Today, we remember our hope for the second coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Today, we remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins.

Today, we remember to be thankful for our God’s abundant love.

Today, we prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas into our families and into our hearts.

Today, we prepare to welcome anyone who is a stranger into our home to experience God’s Spirit.

Today, the lost have been found, the broken heart has joy, the unlucky has hope, the separated has been restored, and the walls have been torn down.

Today, we’re all here to celebrate God’s restoration.

Read all Advent 2015 reflections.

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