Week 3 December 2022, Devotion Part 1
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God… But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…. James 1:5-6
Decisive “asking faith” cannot be the kind of “baby faith” that adores Christ in the crib but abhors Him as the King on the cross who insists we take up our own. It cannot be the “happy holiday faith” of Christmas and Easter that gives no thought to God’s norm of year-round holiness. Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus electrifies our feet for 3 minutes and 49 seconds but generates no “star power” to make us trek into the wilderness of the human heart unmapped for sacred pilgrimage. That is where our star from the east must first arise. “I am…the bright morning star,” testifies Jesus in Revelation 22:16.
J.B. Phillips, English pastor, author and Bible translator (1906-1982), wrote an engaging Christmas story titled The Visited Planet. A senior angel treats a junior one to a glorious intergalactic journey. At its climax, he makes the dazzled youngster focus on something resembling a “dull, dirty tennis ball.” In hushed tones the guide divulges his “dirty little secret”: Heaven’s glorious Prince has chosen precisely it for His holy habitation. Just as shockingly, this divine Visitor who lay incarnate in Bethlehem’s stable still tries for entry into every sin-marred heart. His “gentle and lowly” estate forbids the use of SWAT team methods. He simply stands at the door and knocks, offering God’s redeeming, joyful friendship to the Visited Heart. The latch is on the inside, but the reach of the opened door worldwide. “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage” (Psalm 2:8). (Part 1 of 2)
Comment: The “star power” compelling the wise men from the East to undertake their arduous trek in search of a newborn king, was rooted in their desire to worship him. Kirk and Spock of Star Trek fame didn’t reek of camel and their spaceship didn’t veer off into a cartoon. It shows the three unhappy star gazers of Christmas lore arriving at a Carl’s Jr. and despising the Happy Star that has led them astray.
Star Trek episodes had sequels, while Matthew’s nativity story (2:1-12) has a prequel in the Book of Numbers. Israel was poised for entry into the Promised Land, and Moab was the jumping-off place. The unreceptive king ordered his prophet Balaam to curse God’s chosen people. Instead, try as he might, he kept blessing Israel. Then came the climax – the ultimate royal headache for his furious boss – when Balaam prophesied, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab…” (Numbers 24:17). Who should just now come to mind but the Moabitess Ruth? She went to live with her MIL Naomi in Bethlehem after famously declaring, “…where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16). There she married her “kinsman redeemer” Boaz, had a son Obed, and wound up in Matthew’s genealogy as an ancestor of Christ (1:5). God certainly authors no dull scripts!