2019 Advent Devo: Listen for the Bells

At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe. – Billy from the Polar Express

In the fanciful children’s story, The Polar Express, a young boy named Billy begins to doubt the story of Santa Claus.  His emerging disbelief exhibits itself through his inability to hear the ringing of a tiny Christmas bell. Billy’s belief is restored by a journey on a magical train, the Polar Express, that takes him to the North Pole.  After meeting a host of characters and witnessing the manufacture of countless toys for Christmas gifts to all the world’s children, Billy’s belief is restored and he once again can hear the bell.

Luke chapter 7 presents 4 episodes in the ministry of Jesus and introduces us to many characters.  These characters fall into one of three belief categories; believers, doubters and unbelievers.

The first episode in Luke 7 tells of a Roman Centurion whose belief overshadows that of many of the Jews.  He fully trusts in Jesus’s power to heal his beloved servant so much that he says don’t bother to come, just say the words.  Jesus remarks with, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”  A few verses later, his healing power was again demonstrated by raising a widow’s son. Belief took root in those who witnessed the miracle with their proclamation that “God has visited his people!”

The final story of the chapter introduces us to a strong believer amidst a group of staunch unbelievers. While dining with Pharisees a woman known for her sinful living boldly interrupts the feast and, moved with true conviction, begins to wash Jesus’s feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, then anoints his feet with perfume from an alabaster flask.  In contrast to her faith, the Pharisees ridicule Jesus for allowing a sinner to approach him.

Inserted in between these stories contrasting believe and unbelief is a fascinating account of a question from John the Baptist.  Struggling with doubt, he seeks confirmation that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus’s answer for John is simple; consider what you have seen and heard.

Belief can be elusive and at any point in time our belief in God can vary on a continuum from extremely weak to overwhelmingly strong.  Like waves at the seashore, our faith can ebb and flow on a daily basis across the spectrum of belief. This can be frustrating and even frightening.  We must not get discouraged but work with resolve to trust through the times of doubt. When doubt arises, let’s all be like John and return to Jesus with our questions, then consider what He has said and done.

During this Christmas season we all face the challenge of doubting that God truly sent his son to earth as a baby to an unwed teenage mother.  How outrageous does that sound? But look at what he did and said. I pray that we will all be like Billy in the Polar Express… Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.

Listen for the bell.

Live Jesus, Give Jesus.
James Peterman