Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. – Matthew 1:7-10It happened one Sunday at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Arlington, Texas. Part of the service that morning included a dramatic skit, featuring an overbearing spiritual advisor who was wielding a pointing stick and barking orders. “Pray! Now! Don’t open your eyes! Kneel! Got it? OK, now DO it!” At one point during the diatribe the drill-instructor/spiritual advisor pointed his stick in a sweeping motion to his right. I was sitting in the front row in the direct path of the trajectory of the pointer as it flew out of his hand. He was mortified. I was amused. The congregation broke into laughter. It was such a joyous moment: I was not alone in my desire to do some things outside the box. We were one. In Christ. In mission. In joy.
This joy certainly must pale in comparison to the joy the wise men had when their search proved fruitful. Here he was: the One born King of the Jews. There it was: the star appeared again and led the way for them. Their search was not in vain. Their desire to worship the newborn king would be fulfilled. They had not come all that way for nothing.
What brings you joy? For many it is seeing their children succeed and do well in life. For others it is family unity on a larger scale. For still others, it is seeing the ministry of the church prosper. For still others it is seeing their favorite sports team win.
The purest joy is founded in seeing the promises of God materialize before one’s eyes. It is recognizing the faithfulness of God and his goodness and grace at work in our lives. Pure joy is linked to God’s promises and our anticipation and faith in those promises. Pure joy transcends threats, dangers, schemes of the evil one, and the devious plans of sinful men.
James says that we should count it as pure joy when we face trials of various kinds, because they produce endurance, faith and hope. He must realize that pure joy is not tied to outward circumstances, but to an inward reliance on the mercy, love, faithfulness and kindness of God. That’s a good reminder for us, and a glimpse of the wisemen’s heart.