The Advent of the Lord

READINGS

Luke 2:1-7 Kempton Version of the Bible
1 And° it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the inhabited◠earth should be enrolled . 2 This enrolment was first made when Cyrenius was◠governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be enrolled, every one to his own city. 4 And° Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed wife, being great with child. 6 And° it came to pass, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should bring forth; 7 and she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling-clothes, and laid Him  in the manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.


Apocalypse Explained 1087
[4] Because the Lord does all things from primaries by means of ultimates, and in ultimates He is in His power and in His fulness, therefore it pleased the Lord to take upon Him the Human, and to be made Divine truth, that is, the Word; and thus from Himself to bring into order all things in heaven, and all things in hell, that is, to execute a Last Judgment. This the Lord could accomplish from the Divine in Himself, which was in primaries, by His Human, which was in ultimates, and not from His presence or abode in the men of the church, as formerly; for these had entirely fallen away from the truths and goods of the Word, in which the Lord had His habitation with men previously. This was the primary cause of the Lord’s Advent into the world; and also that He might make His Human Divine. For by this means He had the power of keeping all things in heaven and all things in hell in order for ever. This is meant by sitting at the right hand of God (Mark xvi. 19). The right hand of God is the Divine Omnipotence, and to sit at the right hand of God denotes being in that by means of the Human.

SERMON

As we turn our attention to that time of year which marks the birth of the Lord into the world we would do well to ponder the internal significance of what the Scriptures point to in providing us with an account of the representative events that clothe deeper celestial and spiritual realities relating to the human mind and its regeneration.

The Heavenly Doctrine states that everything in the Word deals with internal realities and and that it makes mention of worldly events, rulers, peoples, nations, places, and times only so far as these can represent mental states and the changes they undergo due to the operation of the influx of Lord’s life (AC 2015) into the human mind.  So by “those days”, “a decree”, “Caesar Augustus”, “the entire inhabited earth”, and the need for it to “register”, are described aspects of preparation that relate to that state of mind into which the Lord as the Divine truth can be born and so perceived on the natural plane.

The term “Caesar Augustus” to the natural man is understood to be the title of the Roman Emperor who reigned at the beginning of the First Century AD.  But for those who read the Word spiritually this head of state is understood to be what rules that particular state of mind that initiates those conditions through which a person can be brought into a fuller awareness of the divinity of the Word.  The spiritual experience of seeing that the Word is divine is described in natural terms as the Lord being born into the world so that every time a person experiences insights from the Word they experience the Lord making His Advent into the world of their mind as the Divine truth.  Those who think spiritually are in the experience the Advent, which is to be aware of the operation of truths from the Word as a continuous ongoing process.  It is natural thinking which sees the Advent solely in terms of an event in time.

[That] “God coming” signifies to perceive, is evident, for perception is nothing else than the Divine advent or influx into the intellectual faculty.  
Arcana Coelestia 2513

The Lord makes His advent in human minds and so presents Himself to the intellectual faculty by means of truths from the Word…

That the coming and presence of the Lord in the Word is signified, is because the Word is the Divine truth that proceeds from the Lord, and that which proceeds from the Lord, is the Lord Himself. And therefore they who read the Word and at the same time look to the Lord-acknowledging that all truth and all good are from Him, and nothing from themselves-are enlightened, and see truth and perceive good, from the Word.  Arcana Coelestia 9405

Spiritually the title “Caesar Augustus” refers to the Lord as the Word understood naturally.  This is because kings and kingship in the Word mean truths and the things that belong to truths (AC 1672).  That he represents truths naturally understood can be seen in the meaning of the words, “Caesar” and “Augustus”.  Most scholars agree that the word “Caesar” most likely means “hairy”, and the word “Augustus” means, “venerable”.  Now because the human body corresponds in every detail to the human mind, and the mind consists of states of affection and thought, hair, as the most external element of the body, must spiritually correspond to the most external aspect belonging to our mental life.  From the Heavenly Doctrine we find that by…

..the hairs of the head and of the beard, as they are the [most external] things of man, correspond to the [most external things] of truth and good. The [most external things] of truth and good are such as are the [external] truths of the sense of the letter of the Word.  Apocalypse Explained 419

When the Word is venerated or held in esteem due to what it offers in terms of instruction for life then it is able to speak to us.  This influx of the Lord’s life by means of the letter is received into our understanding as instruction to return to first principles through acknowledging that all the good and truth we have is the Lord’s and Lord’s alone.  In the symbolic language of Scripture this is described as…

…a decree that came out from Caesar Augustus that the entire inhabited earth register.  Luke 2:1

A decree is instruction, Caesar Augustus is the letter of the Word, and the inhabited earth are all those states within us that are open to receiving the Lord that constitute the Church within us (AC 931, 3488.8).  It is only as we look to live from our understanding of truth that the Lord as the Word is received, or born, or comes alive for us as the Divine truth so that our minds can be regenerated.  The instruction to register involves a number of things that related to this receptive state of mind.  To the natural man, who only derives meaning from the literal sense of the Word, this “registration” constitutes a call for a census for the purposes of taxation.  But the function of Sacred Scripture has nothing to do with providing us with information regarding natural or worldly matters, for its sole concern is with spiritual matters that relate to the regeneration of the human mind.

The literal sense of the Word is provided to serve as a foundation from which we can have our minds elevated to perceive the Word’s spiritual meaning, or how it is to be applied to the inner life of our mind.  The decree, that all should register, required that all return to their place of origin.  One of the fundamental teachings evident in the letter of the Word is that all things are from the Lord.  Spiritually the idea is that every good and every truth is the Lord’s and the Lord’s alone, and as people in the Word represent goods and truths that populate the mind, so this shift and movement of people back to their place of origin corresponds to the reordering of goods and truths within the mind into their proper relationships so that the Lord might be brought forth or make His Advent into the natural plane of a person’s awareness.

What governs this process is called “Cyrenius governor of Syria.”  The name Cyrenius means, “who governs”.  Syria represents the knowledges of good and truth drawn from the Word, in particular those truths or ideas related to love to the Lord (i.e. celestial love see Apocalypse Explained 559.8).  So Syria represents those higher ideas from the Word that are to be found in the Heavenly Doctrine whose use is to govern or oversee the organisation lower things, such as the natural ideas that make up the sense of the letter of the Word, so that they in turn can serve as vessels through which the Lord can make His Advent in our awareness as Divine truth.

Until we begin to apply truths from the Word to the life of our mind the facts and information we acquire from it are invariably misconstrued and twisted into a form that supports the loves of self and the world that make up everyone’s life prior to their regeneration.  This can be seen most easily in extreme forms of religious fundamentalism where intolerance and hatred are justified from a literal reading of spiritual texts.  When the Word is twisted in this way it loses its heavenly form or ability to convey what is genuinely loving and wise from the Lord and we get overtones of self-righteousness,  moralising, social controls, and judgemental attitudes that lack mercy and compassion.

While these things are more easily seen in extreme contexts we should never forget that our own proprium cloaks itself in more and less the same way to conceal these kinds of attitudes.  The point is, it is not until we actually start using truths to begin to examine the quality of our inner life that our understanding of the letter of the Word can begin to be reformed and brought into correspondence with the form of heaven and so serve as vessels for revealing the spiritual sense.  Without this the Lord as the internal sense of the Word can’t flow into our conscious awareness, or in the terms of the natural man, can’t be born into the world.  Where by “the world” is spiritually understood the natural mind and by “His birth” is understood the presence of the Divine as goodness or love ruling in our life by means of Divine truths.

The Heavenly Doctrine teaches that every impression we receive over the course of our lives is organised by the Lord within the mind for the sole purpose of bringing us into the life of heaven.  Those impressions and experiences that hold within them what the Lord can use to inspire or awaken feelings of love, mercy, and compassion, along with ideas that contain higher celestial and spiritual truths are of particular importance in this regard and so the Lord ensures that these are protected from being harmed or destroyed by our proprium (ego) as it develops and becomes more centred in loves of self and the world.  This body of good impressions are indrawn into a higher part of the mind and remain there as tender vessels through which higher heavenly influences can operate to moderate our selfish tendencies and inspire motivations toward a spiritual search so that what is genuinely good and true can be established on the natural plane of our mind and life.

These good impressions are what is meant by the terms remnants, or remains, in the Word.  They form the internal man, or mind, which forms the essence of our potential for a heavenly sense of self.   This potential self is opened through working cooperatively with the Lord as the Word to bring about the reformation and regeneration of the external mind whereby the proprium or ego-self gives way so that this new heavenly sense of self can have its potential realised.

This all takes place when we make sincere efforts to engage with truths from the Word as the basis for our spiritual life.  The ability to do this is only possible because of the existence of these remains that make up the internal man.  As we engage with the Word a decree goes out throughout the land that sees all that is from the letter of the Word present in the external mind begin to undergo a reformation.  In this way all things are reconstituted into an order or form that can receive the Lord’s life by which He can be perceived as the spiritual sense of the Word.  Cyrenius, or our knowledge of what is good and true, or our understanding of doctrine, is what governs this reforming process.  It’s a process where what is higher or more internal flows into what is more external so the things of the letter of the Word in the external can be elevated through our perception of the spiritual meaning within it.  This is described in verses 4 and 5 where it states that…

Now Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, into the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because of his being of the house and kindred of David, to register together with Miriam, his espoused wife, who is about to give birth.

The natural man sees in these words nothing more than a journey taken by Joseph and Miriam from one place to another in the holy land.  But the spiritual man is aware that all movements in the Word involving changes of place have application to the changes of mental state involved in the regeneration of the human mind.  The change being talked about here has to do with our understanding of how the Word is to be applied to life.

Joseph and Miriam represent our understanding and affection for the Word, which when in Galilee is looking to what is good but on the external level of life.  In saying that “Joseph… went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth…” describes the elevation of the understanding represented by Joseph who “went up from Galilee”, and by him going “out of the city of Nazareth,” is described the journey we all must make if we are to make a shift from understanding the Word naturally toward understanding it spiritually.  To ‘go up’ from a place in the Word corresponds to turning our attention from the external to internal matters of life.

Judea, the region Joseph is said to go toward, corresponds to love to Lord, and the city of David to those truths that express what this love is.  Judea and the city of David describe a love for the more interior things of the Word because of their ability to bring forth goodness in life.  The desire for internal things of the Word is what precedes a new perception of the Lord as the internal sense of the Word which is represented by His birth in Bethlehem.

To take the letter of the Word within involves examining our inner states to assess their spiritual quality.  In this way our affections or motivations are purified through the removal of evils and falsities in the natural man.  Thus the Heavenly Doctrine says that our ability to see and have the Lord come into view in our understanding, or have Him born so as to be seen as the Word, is a direct result of the removal of evils and falsities for it is these that prevent us from seeing the Lord as the internal sense of the Word.  So wherever sincere efforts are being made to live from the Lord’s Word, the Lord makes His Advent anew through Mariam who represents the affection for truth through which the Divine Truth of the Word is made visible to our perception where it can be acknowledged to be the Lord God Jesus Christ.

6 And° it came to pass, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should bring forth; 7 and she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling-clothes, and laid Him  in the manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

 Amen

About David Millar

My passion revolves around supporting people to engage with the Lord's Word, or Divine truths in the form of sacred texts, to cultivate an intentional spiritual practice. Through the works penned by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) we find that the Biblical texts contain a deeper meaning that, once understood, enables them to be applied in ways that open the human mind to the realisation of its spiritual potential. The goal of the Divine Life is to free each and every human being from the pain of self centred living and bring them into the experience of all that is heavenly through the promotion of what is genuinely good and true. The material shared here is offered in the pursuit of that aim.
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One Response to The Advent of the Lord

  1. Lyn Rocke' says:

    Thank you David for another very clear explanation of the Lords coming into our lives through understanding the spiritual sense of the Word.

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