“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek.” – Isaiah 61:1
The season of Advent turns our thoughts toward Christmas and urges us to prepare for the contemplation of the most wonderful event of time or of eternity.
Christmas is properly a time of rejoicing. The announcement of the angel to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night was, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.”
The coming of the Lord into the world is not an isolated event in the history of humanity. We celebrate Christmas in commemoration of an event which took place long ago, but our rejoicings at this season should be very personal. For this event of long ago has a very direct bearing on our own life.
The Lord is the source of all life and blessing. Of ourselves we cannot find the way of life. That was the state of the world when the Lord was born. “There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” The glad news of the birth of the Lord was first given to these simple, ordinary men. The sheep which they cared for they knew by name, and the sheep knew their voice. The Lord said of Himself, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep and am known of mine.” The response of the shepherds was one of delight and joy. It had nothing in it of intellectual speculation. That belonged to the wise men who came later on the scene.
Christmas is of special interest to children. We might almost say it is for children, for the Lord makes His Advent first to those in simple faith who do not trust in themselves. The Lord came as a little child, and was born in Bethlehem. He came to be our Redeemer, to meet and overcome the enemies of our peace which were threatening to overwhelm all mankind, and to redeem us. The Redemption He wrought not only gave men freedom to know the truth and do it, but operates now to keep us and all men in such freedom. The only reason why any one of us in this modern world is able to think about anything good, the only reason why we can even grasp that there is anything good at all, and the only reason why we can put evil behind us and choose to do good is that the Lord came into the world as a man and fought for us against the hells that were attempting to bring us into the most abject slavery that evil could devise.
The sense of a personal thanksgiving should underly all our celebrations and rejoicings at Christmas time. If we realized even but a little of all that the Advent meant and means for the world and for us today, we would enter His courts with praise. If men really understood even a fraction of what the coming of the Lord accomplished for each and every one of us, the world would be filled with rejoicing people, and His temples and churches would be filled with grateful worshipers.
Without the Lord’s coming into the world for our redemption, yes even for our own individual redemption, every single one of us, the proudest and greatest and cleverest as well as the simple and ignorant, if the human race had been able to persist so long, would be nothing but a miserable creature, unable to distinguish between good and evil and incapable of knowing or doing anything that the infernal spirits did not approve or inspire into us.
If we know these things, if we understand anything of the debt we owe to the Lord, we shall “enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.” And in the light of the truths revealed in the Second Advent a deeper joy in Christmas should be ours. We should be able to see clearly that “the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” All religion is based on a knowledge of God and a sense of obligation to Him, as evinced by a life according to His precepts. We should be able to obey the command, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” If we think of God as remote and inaccessible, and as an angry and vindictive deity, we cannot obey this command. The life spent in fear of God is quite another thing than the life that is made glad by constant recognition of the Divine goodness.
True religion depends upon true knowledge of the Lord. And at the time of the Advent this knowledge had been lost. So He came to make Himself known. At the Christmas season the story of the Lord’s coming into the world is made known throughout the world in many media. In many parts of the world the “Messiah” will be sung. Vital parts of the Word will be brought to millions over the radio and TV. Multitudes will join in singing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” And the heavens will be united with the earth in confessing the Lord’s mercy and goodness. What effect this will have upon the moral and spiritual life of the people concerned one cannot say. And it is not for us to estimate. But it will help to keep before the world the Lord as its Redeemer and Savior until men are ready to acknowledge and receive Him.
There is no festival which children enjoy so much as Christmas. It has an especial appeal to them. It should be used to make the Lord real to them.
There is much doubt in the world today, and the New Church has a specific task. We are living in a new intellectual and spiritual age. The Word declares, “Behold, I make all things new.” The Lord knew that the ideas His disciples had concerning Him would not forever meet the needs of men. He told them so. He told them that the time would come when the religion built upon the disciples’ concept of the Lord would have added to it a further revelation. The minds of men must be prepared to receive Him – the minds of men of this new age. This does not mean that we need a new Word, for He declares that His Word shall endure forever. Not only is it the source of all spiritual knowledge for men, but also it is the source of all knowledge for the angels to all eternity. A new Word is not necessary nor possible. But a new understanding of the Word is. We can increase forever in a deeper understanding of the Word and in a closer approach to the Lord.
Those who love the Word, those who wish to know and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ can now prepare the way for that deeper advent which the Lord makes in His Second Coming.
The Advent season should mean more and more to us as time goes on. Each succeeding Christmas should find us more advanced in our knowledge of the Lord and in a state of more willing readiness to worship Him. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” We can advance in knowledge of Him only as we read and understand His Word. It is by means of His Word that He is born in us. Through it He can reveal Himself ever more clearly and accomplish the greater works in our souls.
In the inner meaning of the Word He makes His closer approach to us. The letter of the Word becomes filled with the Divine and heavenly glories of its interior life, and we come to worship the true God in spirit and in truth.
This is the new Advent to us of the Lord Jesus Christ, His coming to us in a new revelation from His Word. The conditions in the world and in the minds of men show the need of this deeper understanding. And as the way is opened, the Lord can come to us. Then the joy of Christmas can be ours. We see the Lord as our Redeemer, Savior, and Friend, and we see that we are engaged in no hopeless war against the enemies of our peace, nor are we servants of a tyrannical Lord, but we see Him as One who is constantly with us seeking to help us, to bear our burdens, to overcome all our enemies, and that with His help we cannot fail.
God is with us if we want Him to be. Emmanuel, God with us, is not merely a name; it is a world-saving, liberating truth.
“The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
“The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.
“He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
“The Lord preserveth all them that love him.”