Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Thought: The Lord Came into the World
You know that our Heavenly Father created the world in which we live, and indeed not only the natural world, but also the spiritual world. At first everything and everyone was good. People loved each other, and because they were so good, when their loved ones went to Heaven they could continue to talk with them. The Lord Himself would often appear to them and teach them. Those were happy, happy times. But after a long while people no longer wished to be dependent on the Lord. They did not like to think that they owed everything to Him, but began to think that what they had was their very own; that their bodies were their very own and that they could do with them just what they wanted without caring whether it was what the Lord, who gave them their bodies, would wish them to do; that if they were good, this was something that they made themselves; that if they were smart, they became smart of themselves. In this way they began to think what was not true, and of course loved what was not good. And so falsity and evil began in their hearts, and around them evil animals and poisonous plants began to exist. The people began to get sick and miserable, and unhappiness took the place of happiness. Men began to claim that what others possessed belonged to themselves; they took away the property. of other men and made them their slaves.
Things went from bad to worse. The Lord did all that could be done, sending them prophets, who were teachers; giving them the Commandments; and in other ways trying to help them get right again. It is a long story. But at last the people to whom He had sent His servants, the prophets, grew so bad that there was hardly anyone left who knew what was really good or true.
So, when nothing else could be done, the Lord Himself came into the world. He did not step out of His Sun (that shines in Heaven) right into the world, because no one could have stood that. He is so grand and glorious. He is so bright and warm. His brightness would have blinded all. The heat of His infinite love would have burnt all. So He wrapped His great, splendid light up. How could this be done? Have you ever seen light wrapped up in a cloud? 0 yes! It can be done. He wrapped His bright light, His glorious, Divine truth, up in something that was real small and tender and soft and sweet. He did not want to hurt anyone, but came in a way that would bless all. He clothed Himself with the body of a dear, tender, little babe. You know the story. You know that, although He might have been born in a palace built of the finest marble, in a bed of gold, with clothes and covers of the finest linen and lace, He was willing to be born, not even in a house, but in a stable, with a manger for his crib. He did this for a reason. Do you know why? He did it to show that the people of the Jewish Church thought of the Divine truth as a poor little thing of not much value.
But, away off, far distant from the country of the Jews where He was born, were wise men, to whom a star appeared. Led by that star, they journeyed until they reached the humble dwelling of the Lord. Taught by the star, they knew that, although born in a stable, He was most precious, that He was "born King of the Jews," and so they fell down and worshiped Him. Think of it! At the beginning of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ in the world, these men who were not Jews, yet believed Him to be their King; and at the end of His life in the world when He hung on the cross, the Roman governor, likewise not a Jew, believed the same thing, and hung on the cross the title, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Both the wise men from the East and the Roman governor from the West knew that this title meant something more than that He was the king of the Jewish people, but they did not quite understand what it meant. We of the New Church have been taught what it meant; that He is the King or Ruler of those who were represented by the Jews of old - namely, of all who cherish a warm love for Him in their hearts. His Divine Truth clothed in that little body was King, and is King.
When everyone does as the wise men did, the world will grow good again, and even better than it was in the beginning. We must all go to the Lord in His Word, for Bethlehem means the Word. We must bow down before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We must love to take in the Divine truth of His holy Word, and to obey it. Then He becomes our King, for His truth will rule all we love and think and say and do. Then we shall cheerfully and gladly treat everyone with love and consideration, enjoy thinking out the best ways to be of use to others, and take great pleasure in doing and saying what is just and right, and, we shall be very, very happy, both in this world and also in the next.
It is the Lord, our Redeemer and Savior, who helps us to do this. It is He who, from Himself, sends us this happiness as His great and everlasting Christmas gift to us.
TOPICAL AND DOCTRINAL NOTES: SECOND LESSON
LEADING THOUGHT - THE WISE MEN FROM THE EAST
You know the story of the wise men from the East. But what perhaps you do not know is where these men came from and how the Lord showed them the star which led them to the place where the Divine Child lay. Indeed no one can answer the question about them unless he has studied the Doctrines of the New Church, for they tell us about this as about everything else in the Holy Word.
Of course you know that the Jews, the people among whom the Lord was born, had been told from time to time, by the prophets, that He would be born, and the name of the place where He would be born. These prophecies were made from time to time during the entire duration of the Jewish Church. Even Moses prophesied about it. Moses was the man through whom the Lord established the Jewish Church, for it was through Moses that the Lord gave the Ten Commandments, and that was the beginning of the writing of the Old Testament.
But before Moses’ time, and even before the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, there was a Church, which had a holy Word. We are taught to call that Church "the Ancient Church," and the Word they had, "the Ancient Word." Moses knew about that Ancient Word. He copied the first few chapters of Genesis from it, and also quoted from it elsewhere.
The Ancient Church spread over a number of countries, namely, Syria, Assyria, Arabia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Chaldea, Tyre, Sidon, and elsewhere. The people of that Church loved to study correspondences, that is, they loved to find out what spiritual thing every natural thing corresponded to, and therefore represented. We have occasionally talked about correspondences, and so you will understand what it means.
Of course when we speak of a Church, we mean people who not only know about the Lord and about spiritual things, but who live up to what they know, who really and truly love the Lord and the neighbor, doing what the Lord tells them to do. When people gradually stop loving the neighbor as much as themselves, and stop loving the Lord above all things, then the Church dies. And yet they may continue to know what has been taught in the Church.
This is the way it was with the Ancient Church. It died out. And yet many of the people continued to study correspondences. No doubt a few of these were good, but most of the people in the countries where the Ancient Church had been were no longer spiritually " alive." (Why! We are using correspondential expressions ourselves now, are we not? "Dead" and "alive." You know what these words mean.)
In the Ancient Church they had many laws or statutes that described how worship was to be conducted in a correspondential manner. These laws were like the laws that we have in the books of Moses. They also had prophecies about the Lord's coming into the world. Indeed, very much of their worship was so conducted as to represent the Lord's future coming into the world, and the great work of redemption that He would then perform. When the Ancient Church died out, some of the people, especially those who lived in Syria, continued studying these representatives in their worship and their statutes, and so they knew about the Lord's coming. One of the most interesting stories of the Word tells us about this. You will find it in Numbers 22; 23; 24. What is told in that story happened while the children of Israel, under the leadership of Moses, were marching from Mount Sinai, where the Ten Commandments were given, to the land of Canaan, and passed through the land of Moab. The king of Moab called upon a man by the name of Salaam, who lived in Syria, to curse the Israelites. But instead of cursing them, he had to bless them, because he knew representatives, and the great encampment of the children of Israel with the tabernacle in the midst, represented Heaven. While blessing them, he was led by the Spirit to foretell that the Lord was coming into the world, which he did in these words, "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not nigh; a Star shall come out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall arise out of Israel." He saw the Lord, but not then, for the Lord was not born until nearly fifteen hundred years later. He beheld Him, but not near, because the Lord was not born in the land of Moab where the Israelites were then encamped, but in Bethlehem of Judea, a long distance off.
Men who, like Balaam, knew correspondences and representatives - that is, who knew spiritual things - were called "wise " in those days.
Although Balaam lived over fourteen hundred years before the Lord was born, yet the knowledge of representatives continued to be studied in Syria and Arabia down to the time of the Lord's birth, and it was in the same country that the wise men lived who followed the star to Jerusalem and then to the place where Jesus was.
The Lord is the East in heaven. And therefore they saw the star "from the east." Now a "star" signifies knowledge of what is good and true, and especially knowledge about the Lord. And because these wise men had knowledge about the Lord's Advent from the representatives that were among them, therefore they saw the star and it went before them. It went to Jerusalem first, because that holy city represented the Church as to doctrine and as to the Word; and then it went to the place where the infant Lord was.
And because they knew correspondences and representatives, they presented Him with representative gifts, namely, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. For they used these things in their own worship, knowing what they represented, and they brought them to the infant King, because they represented the different kinds of goodness that He was going to raise up in the hearts of men forever after. Gold represents the highest and purest and best kind of goodness, such as the angels of the highest heaven have, and which is therefore called "celestial good." Frankincense represents the kind of good such as the angels of the middle heaven have, and which is called "spiritual good." Myrrh represents such good as the angels of the lowest heaven possess, and this is called "natural good."
We also have the star, the knowledge about the Lord, and we must follow that star and devote to the Lord's service all the good that He gives us.