Category Archives: Advent and Christmas

The Word Made Flesh

By Rev. Brian W. Keith

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Night a time of quiet when the bustle of the day dies down; a time of weariness when we make ready for a restful sleep; also a time of darkness and cold; our vision is limited and we seek the warmth of fires and homes.

Nighttime plays a prominent role in the birth of the Lord. It was at night in a dream that the angel appeared to Joseph giving him reasons to marry Mary. Later at night he warned him of the danger of Herod, and eventually informed him that it was time to return to the land of Israel. It was in the night that the Lord was born and the shepherds found their way to the manger. And it was in the night that the wise men saw the star in the east, and then had the star lead them from Jerusalem to Bethlehem where it stood over the house where the young Child lay.

The nighttime scenes surrounding the birth and early years of the Lord’s life depict the shroud that had descended upon the world. Their God, Jehovah, had not been seen nor heard from in hundreds of years. They were lost and rudderless without Him. Other than maintaining the ancient rituals, they had little sense of who He was and how they were to live. Hearts were growing colder from the confusion and distortion of everything good.

Even with the few descendants of the ancient churches, some of whose knowledge resided with the wise men, there were but scant glimmers of light. Perhaps those wise men alone among the ancients saw the star. Certainly its light was not overpowering. So even with the ancients there was but little understanding of who the Lord is. What minimal truth remained was heavily shaded because all they had ever seen of the Lord was a representative not the Divine in its glory (see SS 99).

But our images and memories of the birth of the Lord are not focused upon the darkened states. Rather we remember the multitude of heavenly hosts shining upon the shepherds, the star guiding the wise men, and the light of day in which Simeon lifted up the infant Lord, blessed God, and Anna proclaimed His glory to all. For the Lord’s coming is a coming with light and with life. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

One of the wonders of Christmas is the fact that the Lord is born with light in the midst of confused and dark states of life. When we see little but gloom and hopelessness, He comes to us. He holds us in His hands, nourishing an inner sense of hope that we might endure and overcome. Then His full presence with us is in the light of the morning, enabling us to recognize who He is and how we might walk in His ways. This is why the morning with its light and warmth corresponds to the Lord’s coming (see AC 22, 4240e; SS 99).

For the Lord came as the light of the world. This is His glory. We can see it shining upon us in the truth His advent brought. For until the Lord took on a physical form as a tender infant, all the earlier concepts of Him were vague at best (see SS 99). All of the true ideas that had existed with the ancients about marriage, life continuing past the veil of this world, and how His providence guides us were only misty images of what they might be. For all truth had been filtered through the heavens. Dependent upon the finite grasp of the angels, the glory of the Lord had shone dimmer and dimmer into this world, until at last the vision of Him was nearly lost. By His birth the Lord acquired a natural degree of life. As He put it on and gradually made it Divine, the warmth of His love and the light of His wisdom became immediately present with all.

This is the light of the new day the Lord’s coming heralded for mankind a light shining in the darkness, leading to the brilliance of day. We can sense this when we reflect upon our awakening states not those mornings which come after too little sleep, or when we are rudely awakened by alarms and the bustle of hurriedly preparing to rush off to work. But we feel it in the quiet mornings when we awake refreshed and revived when we listen to the singing of the birds and know the dazzling sunlight portends the warming of the earth. The light has a special quality then. With clarity we see beauty in even the simplest things around us. And we can sense the closeness of heaven, the closeness of the Lord’s advent as our spirits are lifted up to the new day (see AC 7844:2).

As the Word made flesh, the glory of the Lord can bring us a peacefulness unlike any other. Not a peace like the quiet of evening when we are preparing to rest. Rather it is a peace of contentment and confidence. As the Heavenly Doctrines note, this peace is “the very Divine truth in heaven from the Lord which universally affects all who are there and makes heaven to be heaven; for peace has in it confidence in the Lord, that He directs all things and provides all things, and that He leads to a good end. When a person is in this state, he is in peace, for he then fears nothing, and no worry about things to come disturbs him” (AC 8455). The glory of the Lord’s Word shines upon us when we have such assurance that He is in charge, carefully guiding every one of our steps.

This is the state of the angels. Their unpleasant memories of this earth have been set aside. They have no desire to leap into the future. Rather they fully enjoy the present, sensing all the goodness that the Lord is giving them now. For they trust in Him, knowing that He is leading and caring for them no matter what happens.

We may taste some of this angelic peace as we celebrate the Lord’s advent or awaken in the morning. But we enter into it more and more as we set aside the things of this world: worry about the future, too great a focus on natural toys and conveniences, our selfish drives and desires. To the extent that we can enjoy earthly delights without making them all-important, that we can serve others without always thinking about what we will get out of it, so far peace can enter our lives. It is then that we become convinced that the Lord’s light is the true light and most of the problems and troubles we experience can fall away. It is then that we can glimpse the Lord and experience His peace, His advent into our lives.

In one sense there is nothing startlingly new or different about this idea. Indeed, it is so simple, so fundamental, that it hardly needs to be said. So we are affected by the Word made flesh as the Divine flows into some of the simple truths we already know. This is one of the reasons the Lord was born on earth that the Divine goodness might be joined with our common sense and simple ideas of Him that we have (see AC 2554).

The Lord’s birth itself did not reveal any radical new information that had not been available before. In fact there would be no real instruction until thirty years later when the Lord began His public ministry. But His birth signaled a beginning of salvation for all because His presence, His love for us all, was proclaimed by His coming down among us, filling us with His good.

For us now, the Christmas story reveals His glory, the brilliance of His Divine Human in which we may know Him and love Him. The Divine as it is in Itself is far beyond our comprehension and affection, even as it was for the ancients. So the Lord was born that we might see His nature and have it shed light on our lives, giving us the confidence and trust that He is always with us, always leading us in paths of peace.

The Lord then becomes flesh and dwells among us when even our limited, simple ideas of truth can be filled with His presence, showing us something of His love. For the Lord’s coming into our life is not simply to make us feel good. Yes, the Lord would have us experience states of happiness and joy regularly, and eventually in heaven constantly. While He may be born in our states of darkness, His full advent is to us in light the truth of His Word which can fill our minds. Every time we recognize a concept as Divine, as coming from Him and leading our minds back to His love and mercy, His advent has occurred. Then the Word is made flesh, living, for us. We are touched by it, we are enlightened by it, and we are strengthened by it (see AC 8792).

This is our sight of the Lord, His birth among us. It brings us light, and it will bring us warmth. We can embrace this light, this new vision of the Divine, and use it to recognize and follow His teachings (see TCR 774). Then the truth of peace will be ours.

So let this Christmas day affect us with the joys of morning. As its light brings a new brightness to our day, as its warmth stirs a renewed heat in our lives, let us feel the Lord’s closeness to us. His birth on earth was the taking on of a natural form of life that we might know Him, see Him, and love Him. As we put off an excessive focus on the things of this world and upon our concerns, He can come closer to us, bringing us the peace of dawn a peace that has within it complete confidence in His truth, in His guidance, a complete confidence that a heaven shall be made from this human race.

This was the reason for His coming to touch our hearts and enlighten our minds, that He might become the Word made flesh for us eternally. Let us behold His glory, full of grace and truth.


The Unexpected Nature of Incarnation

By Rev. David Moffat

.. the Lord is as much present in charity with those outside the Church who are called gentiles. … Indeed He is more present with them, for the reason that there is less cloud in the understanding part of their minds than is normally the case with so-called Christians. Indeed gentiles have no knowledge of the Word and do not know what the Lord is, and as a consequence do not know what the truth of faith is. This being so, they are incapable of opposition to the Lord or to the truth of faith, such cloud being dispersed easily when they are enlightened. … But the cloud existing with Christians does stand in opposition to the Lord and to the truths of faith, and this cloud is so obscure as to be darkness. And when hatred is there instead of charity it is thick darkness. (Arcana Caelestia 1059 [portion])

The Lord is present with every person, urging and pressing him to receive Him. And when a person receives Him, which happens when he acknowledges Him as his God, the Creator, Redeemer and Saviour, this is His first coming. (True Christian Religion 766)

These two passages from the teachings of our church offer what appears to be a contradiction. Swedenborg writes that gentiles seem to be at no disadvantage in their lack of knowledge about the Word, yet in True Christian Religion, he writes that an acknowledgement of the Lord is of the utmost important. How can we resolve this? We must consider what this “acknowledgement of the Lord is”. We can look at it on two levels.

Firstly there is the verbal acknowledgement upon which Christians tend to place so much weight. This involves the recognition of the Lord Jesus Christ as He walked the earth and as it is recorded in the gospels. However, it ought to be recognised that such a proclamation of the lips is meaningless unless it has some impact upon the life of the person making the declaration. The Lord himself taught this countless times (for example in the parable of the two sons [Matthew 21:28-32], and the parable of the sheep and the goats [Matthew 25:31-46]). We see it in other events in the gospels too, such as when the Lord cast out demons who recognised Jesus for who he was, yet remained opposed to Him. Even the Jewish authorities were forced to recognise who Jesus was – it is recorded in John’s gospel, chapter 11 that instead of paying the honour due to Him, they sought to kill him (John 11:45-57) and Lazarus too, the living proof of Jesus’ power (John 12 9-11). A verbal recognition that the Jesus who taught and performed miracles in Palestine is not the acknowledgement which Swedenborg talks about.

The acknowledgement which is so essential is the change in a person’s heart and life. It is obedience to the Lord’s teachings. Without that obedience, verbal recognition is worse than worthless. So we should not look to a person making any proclamation in order to believe that they will find heaven in this world and the next. Those two parables I mentioned before (the two sons and the sheep and the goats), also teach this – what a person does is a more accurate indicator of his inner nature.

Of course, it’s not just being “good” or “nice” which constitutes that acknowledgement. In order to give the Lord the titles, “God, the Creator, Redeemer and Saviour” we have to give them up ourselves. This is the basis of the 12 step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous – that a “higher power” exists, which is the source of our ability to make positive changes in our lives. In Spiritual Recovery, Grant Schnarr quotes the woman who says, “I know there is a God, and it ain’t me!” So many of our problems originate in believing that we hold all the answers, that we don’t need to listen to anyone else, even God. Unfortunately, Christians aren’t immune – we can claim to have all the answers just as much as anyone, because we believe we KNOW everything that is important for our salvation and everyone else’s for that matter. Indeed, we confirm it from the Bible, and give our own thinking Divine authority, which makes it even more difficult to turn our back on. This is why Swedenborg says the condition of Christians can be so much worse than that of gentiles.

Let’s move on to the Lord’s Incarnation. Was it really “unexpected”? Well, if we look at the Old Testament, we find countless prophecies of the Lord’s coming. The people of Jesus time looked forward to the coming of the promised “Messiah” with great anticipation. Swedenborg writes that the Lord will only enter our lives and our world when he is expected – he guards our freedom too carefully to jeopardise it. But what becomes clear throughout the gospels is that the nature of his coming was so unexpected that most missed it completely. So few welcomed him at his birth – at Christmas time we are used to celebrate only the rejoicing of a handful of shepherds and some foreign astrologers. Why didn’t the Lord make his birth more widely known? Look what happened when he did! Herod tried to kill the boy for fear of a potential political rival from the little that he knew, and when Jesus entered public ministry some thirty years later he was ultimately executed for making such outrageous claims.

The Lord, although born in Bethlehem, lived most of his life in Nazareth. Being in Galilee, it was dismissed as an insignificant backwater by many of the Jews, and certainly despised by the religious authorities. The northern part of Palestine had been resettled by diverse peoples many years before, after the Israelites of that region had been exiled under the Assyrian empire, and it was certainly not purely Jewish. It represents a gentile condition. It was certainly not a suitable place for the promised Messiah to make his home! In John’s gospel the authorities challenge Nicodemus’s support of this Nazarene upstart with the words, “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.” (John 7:52) The disciple Nathaniel was similarly sceptical before he met Jesus himself (see John 1:46). Outwardly, the reason for Jesus’ residence there was his parents. Inwardly the reason was the spiritual rejection of his authority by the leaders of the Jewish religious institution, and this reflects our own difficulty in truly accepting the Lord into our lives.

Even so, there were those who recognised the Lord instantly. Simeon (and Anna – Luke 2:36-38) represents those who rejoiced to see Him. These are the “remnant” of the people referred to so often in the Old Testament prophets and encountered again in Micah. It is clear from Micah’s writing (4:6-7) that this remnant is not intended as the seed of a re-established nation or political unit, but a people who accept the Lord because they recognise their desperate need of him. They are those who remain true to the Lord out of an otherwise shattered religion. The “remnant” is a spiritual reality, not a natural one.

So, what lessons can we draw from these stories? Firstly, we all exist in varying states of spiritual darkness. There is something of the gentile in all of us, in other words, states of spiritual ignorance. Then there are the religious states. The problem here is that the religious tend to think they know the truth, which can be even worse than being in spiritual ignorance, because such states of “certainty” will actively reject whatever truth appears strange to them. The point is, the standard by which they measure their understanding of truth is not the Lord or the Word, but their own understanding. Sometimes it is thinly disguised as belief in the Word of God, or in the authority of Scripture, but what is really meant is their own interpretation of Scripture. Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” (John 9:41) “If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23)

The third state is that represented by the “remnant”, by Simeon and Anna. It is stored up and protected within us by the Lord Himself. It is that within us which is receptive of the Lord. It is what responds to His call, and recognises Him for who He truly is. The question is what we give priority to. It is this that determines our quality and the quality of our actions.

We are challenged to look for the Lord everywhere, not just where and when we expect Him. He is not limited to the outwardly religious. He is not to be found only in our own sense of what is right or good. He is not to be found in doctrine which is separated from a life in obedience to the Lord’s commands. That is why the Lord chose to make his home in a town so divorced from Jewish religious life. We should be prepared to be wrong! If we are not, we are in real danger of missing Him. Being right or outwardly “good” does not equal salvation or happiness. Praise the Lord that this is so – if our eternal happiness depended upon such things, who would be saved?!


The Call of Christmas

By Rev. David A. Moffat

The Christmas story poses a very special challenge to each one of us. As we read of the Lord’s coming into the world, and as we celebrate that event today, I would like you to bear one question in mind – Of all the characters in the Christmas story, who are you most like?

Are you like the SHEPHERDS?

They were simple folk, attending to their duties, as they would have every night. Their religion would not have been particularly complicated, or learned, consisting largely in the fulfilment of their allotted task in life. They were active in the practical care of others, through simple actions, humbly and faithfully carried out.

And yet, on this night, they are blessed with a spectacular, awesome revelation of the Lord’s birth! Gladly, they heard the news, and rushed to see the new born Saviour. They are reminiscent on those, who through simple charity and obedience to the Lord’s command, can see the need for the Lord’s coming. They are suddenly blessed with an insight and understanding which is unavailable to more sophisticated thinkers. The Lord flows into their hearts and minds through the carrying out of simple duties. This is the nature of their call to the Lord.

Or are you like the WISE MEN?

These men were quite different from the shepherds. They were men of intelligence, something akin to ancient scientists. Living in a far off land, they studied the skies. And despite their learning, they were open to the possibility of things beyond their understanding. They were aware of spiritual truths in an indirect way only – they were not a part of the spiritual community of the Jews. Theirs was an ancient knowledge, handed down, which was preserved to some extent in the practice of their science, although it was hazy, and not clearly seen.

They remind us that science points to spiritual truths, and although it cannot define or quantify the spiritual realm, it can point us in the right direction. We might look to the mounting evidence for life after death, or the research done supporting the real existence of the star of Bethlehem. The Psalmist writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1) Nature itself, and many aspects of our natural lives point to the Lord, if only we will look for them. We may well hope that growing numbers of people might find themsevles in the wide men’s shoes – after all, there are many who now live outside the direct influence of the Christian churches.

These men received no startling revelation. It was through their learning that they were able to “read the signs”. And although their knowledge was uncertain, what they witnessed was enough to send them on a long journey of discovery which would bring them to the Lord Himself.

But there were others involved in this story, and they too were called to the Lord’s crib. Take the SCRIBES, for example.

Once again, we meet men of intelligence. Scholars, not of worldly things, but of Scripture. It is strange that these men were not among the first to seek the Lord. Because, of all the people in this story, they have the biggest clue to the Lord’s birth – the Word itself. Indeed, they tell the Wise men where they will find the new born King. The thing which separates them from the wise men, is motivation. They do not wish to find the Lord – the Lord is really nothing to them. They are religious in only a professional sense. It has no effect upon their lives, nor are they excited by the possibility of the Lord’s coming.

It is not that these men don’t receive a call from the Lord – they choose not to hear it. Do we have all the opportunity in the world and simply fail to grasp it? As Christians, this is a danger we face. We become so used to our way of life, our religiosity, that we ignore or fail to recognise the potential newness within them. Fooled by our external religion, we fail to truly follow the Lord.

Or are we more like HEROD? He was a man of great power, at least in his own eyes. Yet, he was strangely insecure. He was all too aware of the political powder keg which he has ruled so harshly for so long. And he too heard the call. He had all the signs – access to the Word, the startling new discovery of the Wise men. But his reaction is not one of love. It is not even the professional disinterest of the scribes. His reaction is hatred, born of insecurity and fear.

Herod reminds us of those times when we run from the Lord in fear that we will lose what little control we have over our lives. Sometimes we feel that power to be great, and we are threatened by the prospect of losing that power. Sometimes, we are so fearful of that power that the only solution seems to be the destruction of the threat. Of course, in reading the gospels, we realise that the power of the Lord was not really a challenge to the political power of the king. The Lord wants my heart, not my wealth or my worldly power. But its difficult for us to see that distinction when we’re in the state of Herod.

The essence of the message is this. We all hear the call at one time or another. What separates us is how we react to it. In the Christmas story we see that it is the humble and the foreigners who typically follow that call. The “religious” and the powerful fail to do so, through complacency or fear, despite having all the signs.

The Word calls us to a truly spiritual life. How will you respond?


Joy In The Coming of Our Lord

By Rev. David C. Roth

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him …. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Matthew 2:2,10).

How often have we been in the same position as the wise men, or maybe the same situation as the shepherds? We are in a position similar to theirs when we are told of the Lord and the message of His Word. As He did for the wise men and the shepherds, the Lord has made Himself known to each of us in different ways, and now it is up to us to respond. Both the shepherds and the wise men were told in different ways about the coming of the Lord and then given guidance to that special place where the Lord chose to be born. Although both were present to see the newborn Savior, they received the message of the Lord’s birth in different ways.

Most likely each of us has a favorite story in relation to the Lord’s birth. We may even ask ourselves whether it was the wise men or the shepherds who responded in a more favorable way to the announcement of the Lord’s advent. But this question is not really very important when we realize that the essential observation is the one that points to the fact that both the wise men and the shepherds did respond. They both heeded the Lord’s call, but in different ways, each according to his own state – different states, yet states which were acceptable to the Lord. How can we then apply the responses of the wise men and shepherds to our own lives on this Christmas day? As we examine the stories of the shepherds and the wise men, the spiritual sense shows us clearly of their application to our lives.

The first thing, however, that we must understand is the importance of the Lord’s birth. Without His coming we could not be in freedom to be regenerated by Him. His coming has redeemed mankind; that is, He put the hells back where they belonged, put the heavens in order so that they could be safe from the attack of the hells, and began a new church where people could love the Lord and their neighbors (see TCR 86). By His birth and fulfilled life here on earth the Lord is now present with us fully and powerfully in His Word; we are not left alone. It was this message involving all this wonderful work to be done by the Lord which the shepherds were told of, and which the wise men sought to see fulfilled. As the angel of the Lord proclaimed to the shepherds, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11). The message was clearly one to pay attention to, one to be happy about. A Savior had come, of whose kingdom there would be no end.

When we consider the call of the shepherds we see a unique response. The shepherds at this time of the year lived out in the fields with their sheep day and night, always keeping a watchful eye on their tender flocks. Perhaps we envision it being cold and dark, with the shepherds staying close to keep themselves warm. This is illustrative of the type of world into which the Lord was born – cold from the lack of charity and love, and dark because of the false understanding in which the world had engulfed its minds. Yet even in all this cold and darkness there were a few who possessed an innocence and a willingness to be led and taught by the Word. We can see this in the story of the shepherds. A shepherd represents one who teaches the truths and goods of faith. A good shepherd, that is, one that guards and protects his flock, shows us a picture of someone who is learning, protecting and storing up goods and truths. This is a picture of a basically good person, yet one who believes that life is his own, and that most power is from himself. He has been working hard to learn the truths of the Lord’s Word; however, he remains in a state of darkness as to how it all applies to his life, and how it leads him closer to the Lord and away from self. But with this learning of truth and innocent willingness the Lord is able to come to us and be born in our hearts.

The first thing which the appearing angel said to the shepherds was, “Fear not.” This represents a renewal of life, meaning that the Lord will create a new heart within us, a heart that acknowledges the Lord as our Savior and not ourselves. This actually can be a real cause for fear. We read, “For all who come suddenly from self-life into any spiritual life are at first afraid, but their life is renewed by the Lord” (AC 80). It can be a difficult and scary thing to give our life over to the care of the Lord when we feel so strongly that life is our own and that we have the power ourselves to conquer evil. When the Lord draws near, the result is temptation, and if we are good we will fear for the loss of good and truth. His nearer presence makes it feel as if we are losing what good and truth we have. But it is when we do follow the Lord, when we listen to the angel’s good tidings, that He can truly care for us. The manger in which the shepherds found the Lord represents spiritual nourishment. It is here in the presence of the Lord that we are nourished and instructed. The Lord does not lead us to Himself and then starve us; He will fill us to overflowing. The Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes means first truths, truths of innocence from the Lord’s Divine Love. When we come to the Lord He nourishes and instructs us in those things which will make us ready for His kingdom, a kingdom of innocence, love, and use.

After seeing the Babe, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them” (Luke 2:20). This response by the shepherds signifies a true confession and worship, which comes when we acknowledge in our hearts that there is nothing of good in ourselves, and that we can do nothing of ourselves – and, on the other hand, that all good is from the Lord, and that the Lord can do all things (see AC 1210). The Heavenly Doctrines say further of this response, “When man is in this acknowledgment he puts aside what is his own, which belongs to the love of self, and opens all things of his mind, and thus gives room for the Divine to flow in with good and with power” (AC 1210). The shepherds heard the Lord’s call and followed it. We can be like the shepherds ourselves when we make the same sort of acknowledgment regarding the power of the Lord. He will call us in His Word, but if we are looking to ourselves for strength we will not hear Him. We may celebrate the Lord’s advent, but not with the same conviction for the Lord as we would if we humbled ourselves and gave glory to the King of Glory.

From this beautiful picture of innocence as seen in the story of the shepherds we now turn to a different scenario: one of wisdom and perseverance – the story of the wise men. The wise men seemed to have a special quality about them. They knew about the advent of the Lord because they had a knowledge of the Word and its prophecies. We read concerning them, “The knowledge of correspondences survived among a number of the Orientals, even until the Lord’s Advent, as is evident from the wise men of the east who came to the Lord at His birth” (SS 23), “and that they knew of His Advent by a star which appeared to them in the east” (AC 10177).

It is interesting to think of the fact that those who were of the Jewish faith who had the Old Testament Word and who should have known that the Lord was to be born had no idea of it. When the wise men came and asked Herod, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” he had no answer but called the chief priests and scribes together to help. We can imagine that perhaps Herod was a bit embarrassed that he, the king, did not know this, as well as being jealous of this newborn King. The Word says that ” … he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. ” Whatever the nature of the response, again it was quite indicative of the state of the Jewish Church at the time. Not only was their knowledge of the Word lacking and false but many, like Herod, had an all-out hatred for the Lord. This is plainly shown in Herod’s plot to kill the infant Lord, a plot which resulted in the slaying of thousands of innocent children in Bethlehem.

The Jews at this time, it seems, were not looking for the Lord. And when they did find out that He had come, there was no room in their hearts nor their inns to greet Him. Yet, as with the shepherds, we see in the story of the wise men others who were ready for the Lord. But we observe a difference in their response to the Lord’s coming, the main difference being that the wise men were actively seeking out the Lord. They had seen His star in the east and had come to worship Him. They traveled a long distance to see the star that had come out of Jacob, the Scepter that had risen out of Israel, He who was to be born King of the Jews.

In the spiritual sense, the east represents love, and the star that went before them signifies knowledge from heaven (see AC 3762, SS 23). The wise men traveling eastward to the land of the east was representative of those who in their life are moving toward the good of faith. This, the Writings teach, is nothing else than charity toward the neighbor, or a life according to the Lord’s commandments (see AC 3249). In this spiritual picture we can see that it is the knowledges of good and truth found in the Lord’s Word, represented by the star, which guide us to a life of charity or love, that is, which guide us to the Lord Himself. This paints a beautiful picture for each of us. We see that it is through the learning of the Lord’s truths and commands that we can be led to Him.

Still, the most beautiful aspect of the wise men’s response to the Lord’s Advent is seen when they departed from Herod for Bethlehem and the star reappeared before them. “And behold the star which they had seen in the east went before them, til it came and stood over where the young Child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Exceeding great joy! What kind of a feeling did they have? It must have been an overwhelming feeling of excitement and internal peace over having embarked upon the last leg of the journey to their Savior, the star’s reappearing to assure them that the Lord was with them as they continued their trek. Can we ever have such feelings of great joy in our religious life? We certainly can, and we must! Talking to a person who has recently become aware of the wisdom and love found in the Heavenly Doctrines can certainly emanate exceeding great joy. Or a newly engaged or married couple show it to a certain degree. Perhaps we can even relate it to the expression a young child shows on Christmas morning. However, if we are raised in the New Church, do we lose this excitement, or never let it show? If we do, how can we regain this feeling or bring it out so that others can share it? One answer is to be like the wise men, to seek out the Lord in His Word and then come to Him when we see the star, that is, the knowledges from heaven contained in the Word. We may not find the Lord right away. Even the wise men thought they would find the Lord in Jerusalem, but He wasn’t there. They could have given up, but they asked others where He could be found. It is essential to talk to others about our beliefs and our quest for the Lord. They can add to our understanding and love for the Lord, and perhaps our picture then becomes clearer for us, which can eventually lead us to Him. Notice, the star showed itself again until it came and stood over where the young Child was. It led the wise men right to the Lord. We need the truths and goods represented by the star to lead us, and to keep leading us throughout life.

It is important to realize that truth will lead us to the Lord and make us happy, but the real joy for us in our spiritual lives will be when we come to the Lord offering gifts to Him, as the wise men did. These gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were more than just earthly treasures. They represented testifications of the heart or will, the heart found in a person that is truly thankful for all that the Lord has done for him, and shows it by following His Word. These gifts represented things pleasing to God, because their origin is in love and faith toward Him – the love represented by gold, and our faith by the frankincense, and by myrrh is represented our love and faith grounded in things external, which is a life in obedience and love to the Lord and to our neighbor. These are the gifts which the Lord is asking us to bear on Christmas day and beyond. But more importantly to know, they are the gifts which He gives us and wills to give each of us when we respond to His coming. So on this Christmas day let us ask ourselves the following question with the earnest desire to find the answer: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” Let us then search diligently for His star in the east and come to worship Him, that is, live a life of charity and faith in Him, because it is in this kind of a life where we too can share the vision of the shepherds and the excitement of the wise men. “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him … And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”