“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” – Psalm 33:12
We are entering upon another year. The calendar year is determined by the rotation of the earth on its axis and in its orbit around the sun. If the sun, planets, and stars were fixed and there was no other method of measuring time, time would have to be measured in states of life and succession of events.
And indeed we often do measure time in terms of significant events which have taken place in our lives. Some years seem especially noteworthy, such as the year when the war came to an end. So, too, in our individual experience some years stand out because of particular events which brought us pleasure or sorrow or marked a turning point in our lives. Yet we should remember that such events do not just “happen”; they are the result of a long preparation.
One of the things toward which the world looks forward is the time when preparations for war will cease. If this coming year sees even the limitation of armaments, a great burden will be lifted and a step taken toward the abolition of war. Never have the nations felt the need for such a step as they feel it now. War is becoming more and more destructive, and it is difficult to visualize just how destructive a war today would be. The suffering caused by war, the sickness and poverty that follow in its train, the disorganization of useful industries, the burden of taxation are causing men to realize that for these burdens to continue and increase means the breaking down of civilization if not the end of human life on this earth. These are economic reasons for an effort to stop the mad race which can end only in ruin.
Yet strong and compelling as these economic reasons are, any mere external adjustments among nations cannot succeed. There are indeed many serious external maladjustments to be corrected, many serious difficulties to overcome, but we must come to grips with the internal causes. Success in this effort must be from a higher source. It must come from the increase of an unselfish spirit; a spirit of brotherhood, a spirit able to regard a brother’s welfare as our own and the welfare of the whole as above the advantage of any one. National as well as personal selfishness must be overcome. That is where the real problem lies. Our larger industries have all gone astray; they have grown selfish; but these corporate evils merely reflect the character of the smaller personal ambitions and life.
In Revelation we read, “And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” In the Word “nations” are the affections of the human heart, and the nations which need healing are the affections which have grown selfish. They must be healed if life is to be made sound. The different nations of the earth, with their natural selfishness, their rivalries and hostilities reflect the state of these affections as they exist in the hearts of men.
Today we read of the feeling that nations which are prosperous and rich should help those that are poor. This is at least a beginning, one of the promising developments of this new age. Every year brings its new problems, and there will always be problems. But they should not be problems that distress and discourage us; such problems come only as men depart from the Lord. The problems should rather be such as inspire our interest and desire to solve them.
Yet we cannot see what even our own individual problems are from the light of our own minds. The “leaves of the tree” are the truths of the Word. Isaiah writes, “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” And in the book of Revelation we read, “Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” The task for the world is to develop the spirit of justice, responsibility, and self-sacrifice by looking to the Lord for guidance.
A record of our individual lives is made in the mind. This is called our book of life. We speak of the book of nature. The earth records its life in itself, and geologists have been startled at some of its records. Trees note their growth. Man’s body writes its records in itself. Digging deep into the earth for the foundations of a great building, workmen came upon ripples in the sand. Not for ages had there been water in that neighborhood, yet water left those ripples there and recorded its ancient presence. The tides of feeling that rise and fall in our souls leave their marks, just as greed or kindness and mercy write their records in the lines of the face.
There is a record of the years written in the life of nations. The coming year will add something to that record. For generations in the past there has been a theoretical interest in peace. Now the practical necessity of peace is seen. The world was not created a world of hostile groups, living in conflict with one another. Man brought about this confusion. Man must correct himself.
We have just celebrated the Advent. The Lord came to bring peace to the world. That was the burden of the angel’s message. The Lord saw mankind as a great brotherhood of many races, for He had made them so – of many nations, but one brotherhood still, children of one Heavenly Father, able better to serve one another because of their various talents, and capable of being bound more closely into one by reason of their different capacities for service.
The first disciples of the Lord caught this vision of universal brotherhood, but they did not realize how much breaking down of the selfish desire to rule must come before any real progress could be made. The goal seems far from realization even now. We need have no doubts that such a world is coming, but it will come about not of its own accord but as men envision the goal and work for it. It is made possible by the Lord’s victories in His life on earth. He overcame all forms of selfishness and brought into the world the love that can work the miracle of making the whole world one.
The truths necessary to bringing men together are available in the opened Word. By them the Lord’s purposes for us are brought within our reach. There is much discouragement in the minds of men today which springs from the belief that the world must wait upon another Advent of the Lord. But we know that this promised Advent has already taken place. And we know also that it is through men that the Lord accomplishes His purposes in the world. It is our privilege and responsibility as heralds of the new day to see the possibilities for mankind and to have faith in the power of the Lord as His commandments are learned and lived. The question is not one of external changes. Each new year brings new inventions and many changes. But we should not childishly depend upon external changes to correct what is amiss.
It is good for us at the beginning of every year to look over our way of life with all its interests, domestic and social, and those of our daily occupations, and to readjust them in their true order of regard. What is first and what is last in importance to us? What is our chief delight? The greatest changes that we can make are those that we make within the soul. These will gradually effect the required changes without.
Peace and happiness spring from within, not from without, from the souls of men in conjunction with the Lord, and not from human systems and devices.
May we rest our hopes in those things which the Lord has taught us will endure forever – humbleness of mind, kind affections, true thoughts, innocence of heart and trust in the Lord, always believing in Him and in the power of His truth. We cannot think rationally even about natural things if we have no belief in God and knowledge of His Word. It is through His Word that He accomplishes all things. Many cannot be enlightened by the Lord because they do not read His Word, and many who read it do not understand it. So we as members of the New Church have a responsibility, that of standing for the power of the spiritual – for the spirit of love and service through which alone a real settlement of difficulties is possible.
When the Lord gathered His apostles about Him at the Last Supper – and we know that He is always in our midst when we celebrate the Holy Supper – He said to them: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”