For Unto Us a Son is Given

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READINGS

LUKE 1 26-35
26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the name of the virgin was Mary.  28 And the angel coming in to her said, Hail, thou who art graced! The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.  29 But when she saw him she was disturbed by his word, and reasoned
 with herself what manner of greeting this was. 30 And the angel said to her, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found grace with God.31 And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus.32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give to Him the throne of His father David. 33  And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end. 34 But Mary said to the angel, How shall this be, since I know not a man? 35  And the angel answering said to her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that which shall be born of thee Holy shall be called the Son of God.

 

TRUE CHRISTIAN RELIGION 766.
The Lord is present with every man, urging and pressing to be received; and His first coming, which is called the dawn, is when man receives Him, which he does when he acknowledges Him as his God, Creator, Redeemer, and Savior. From this time man’s understanding begins to be enlightened in spiritual things, and to advance into a more and more interior wisdom; and as he receives this wisdom from the Lord, he advances through morning into day, and this day lasts with him into old age, even to death; and after death he passes into heaven to the Lord Himself; and there, although he died an old man, he is restored to the morning of his life, and the rudiments of the wisdom implanted in him in the natural world grow to eternity.

 

SERMON
The Lord is ever pressing to be born into the world of our thoughts and affections. The Christmas story is a universal story in the sense it represents the supreme hope that all might be born from above and, in being spiritually born, might have the kingdom of heaven established in their hearts. It is the story of the Lord’s provision for the salvation of the human race. And because this is the case He chose to be born into the world as an infant, and to grow and develop according to the laws that govern natural life and, through being subject to those laws, was exposed to the violence and hatred that lay within the human heart and condition. You see when we talk of the salvation of the human race we cannot avoid facing up to our own responsibility for the unregenerate condition of the human heart from which the Lord seeks to deliver us all. Every aspect of the Lord’s birth into the world as recorded in the Word corresponds to what must take place in the mind of every human being if He is to truly become their Saviour.

The Heavenly Doctrine teaches that the Lord came into the world to deliver us from the influence and power of the hells by fighting against them and defeating them by His own power. This work of Salvation is set before the world in detail in the Heavenly Doctrines for the New Church where it is dealt with in what they term the internal historical sense of the Word.  This sense works on a level that describes the final states of decline and last judgement upon the Jewish Church and the states of the newly arising Christian Church. This sense of the Word is called the internal historical sense because it deals with state of the beliefs and affections that are active within a Church at a particular time in human history.  It is a way of reading Scripture that keeps the mind in historical associations tied to events in the external world. So in the case of the Lord’s Advent the focus is often on what was happening in the Church at that point in time and what the events surrounding the Lord’s birth represented in that context.  What is termed the internal historical sense is but one step away from a purely natural understanding the Scriptures in which everything is understood according to the literal meaning of the words themselves.

This level of meaning is provided to support us when we are bound to thinking naturally about spiritual things.  But there comes a time when we must lay aside natural things if we are to enter into the spiritual things that lie within natural things.  To understand the Lord’s birth into the world in the light of the revelation for the New Church involves understanding the Word in a way that is more aligned with how things are understood by the angels, who, being purely in the spiritual meaning of the Word don’t entertain anything belonging to ideas of person, place, space and time.  Think about that for a moment, the angels have no concept of persons, places, spatial relations, or historical facts when contemplating the Lord’s Advent.  This is because these things belong to natural thinking and we know that angels don’t think naturally they think spiritually.  In other words they don’t think in terms of historical events when they think of the Lord’s Advent, rather they think solely in terms of mental events or states of mind.  This means that angels have no idea of persons in the world mentioned in the Word.  That’s right, they can’t form concepts of people mentioned in the Word as historical figures, whether that’s Joseph, or Mary, the wise men, Herod or anyone else including the infant Jesus.

 …the angels in heaven never fix their thoughts on specific persons; that would restrict their thoughts and remove them from that all-inclusive perception of real things that lies behind angelic speech. This explains why the things that the angels in heaven say are indescribable, far surpassing human thought, whose range does not extend to seeing things in their totality but is restricted to particular aspects. When one reads therefore in Matt. 8:11 that many will come from the east and the west and recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, the angels perceive the Lord’s presence and the way people make the truth and goodness emanating from His Divine Human their own.  Arcana Coelestia 6804

…in the Word it is customary to speak of persons; but those who are in its spiritual sense, as angels are, do not think of persons at all, but their thought is abstracted from persons, and has respect therefore solely to things. The reason is, that it is material to think of persons, but spiritual to think apart from the idea of persons;  Apocalypse Explained 100

If angels can’t form an idea of Mary as a historical figure then they can’t form ideas connected with historical events she was involved with including giving birth to a child. So we see that for angels the historical events surrounding the Lord’s birth into the world are simply not something they have any interest in.  Now as radical as this idea may seem to the sensibilities of the natural mind, it doesn’t mean that the historical events as described in the Gospels didn’t take place, they did, just as they are described, yet from an angelic or spiritual perspective they are not where our focus should be when contemplating the wonder of the Lord’s Advent and His love for the salvation of the human race.

The sense of the letter of the Word with its historical focus serves a vital use for people in the world who are naturally minded as well as for angels in the heavens in that it provides the means for communication between the heavens and the earth.  When people in the world read the Word it provides the basis for a spiritual influx into their minds, and if they are receptive of that influx they are able to be enlightened by the Lord…

The sense of the letter of the Word is the basis of Divine truth in the heavens, and without such a basis the Divine truth would be like a house without a foundation; and without such a basis the wisdom of the angels would be like a house in the air. It is the sense of the letter of the Word in which the power of Divine truth consists. It is the sense of the letter of the Word through which man is enlightened by the Lord and through which he receives answers when he wishes to be enlightened. It is the sense of the letter of the Word by which everything of doctrine on the earth must be confirmed. In the sense of the letter of the Word is the Divine truth in its fullness. In the sense of the letter of the Word the Divine truth is in its holiness. Apocalypse Explained 1066.4

What this is saying is that it is the sense of the letter of the Word that provides the means by which naturally minded people can be made spiritual.  However the power of the letter lies not in its literal meaning but in its ability to bring naturally mind people into contact with the spiritual ideas within it through understanding it according to the doctrine of genuine truth.  The historical events and people depicted in the story of the Lord’s Advent all point to a deeper, or higher, spiritual understanding of these things.  The Word and the Word alone as we have it in the letter is able to lift our vision out of a natural understanding based in historical events into a spiritual understanding of how the Word works in our minds to bring forth the Lord anew.  When angels contemplate the Lord’s Advent they don’t understand His birth into the world in a material body.  For them, by the Lord making His Advent into the world, is understood the process by which the Divine Goodness or Love is made visible in the natural mind through truths from the Word.

In the Word of the Old Testament, in the spiritual sense of the prophetic portion, and also in its natural sense wherever the spiritual sense shines through, the subject is the Lord alone, namely, His advent in the fullness of time, a time when the goodness of charity and the truth of faith would no longer be present in the church, whose state then is called a consummation, a being laid waste, a desolation, and a cutting off. It includes as well His battles with the hells and victories over them, which constitute also the last judgment that He executed, and after that the creation of a new heaven and the establishment of a new church, which are the Lord’s kingdom to come. All of this is found in the Word of the New Testament, too, in the portion called the Gospels, and in particular in the book of Revelation.  Apocalypse Revealed 478.2

 It is through coming into an understanding the spiritual meaning of the Word and its application to the life of our mind that the historical things in the Word serve their true use.  In giving us access to a purer spiritual understanding of things the historical aspects of the letter are able to support the work of our salvation through the regeneration of our mind.  The Lord makes His First Advent as the Divine Truth or the Word and this is only possible with those in whom the affection for truth is active.  This affection for truth is active when a person is motivated to seek out truths from the Word and apply them to the life of their mind.  The affection for what is good and true is what is meant by “a virgin” in the Word.  In the case of Mary, we have represented the affection for truth that is open to receiving the Word which is what is meant by…

The angel said to Mary, Behold thou shalt conceive in the womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call His name Jesus; He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High. But Mary said unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? The angel answered her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee; wherefore also the Holy One that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God Luke 1:30-35.

These verses describe the full progression of states of mind a person moves through as they go from understanding the Word as something “from” the Lord through to it actually being perceived as the Lord in all His fullness (TCR 6).  By the angel speaking to Mary spiritually is understood heavenly influx.  This is received into the mind and brought into our awareness from truths present there that we have drawn from the Word through the operation of the affection for truth represented by Mary.  The genuine affection for truth looks to the Word as the basis for its life.  As these truths are applied to our life the promise of something higher to be conceived begins to dawn in our awareness.  And so it is that through the practise of the Word from the affection for truth, or what is the same, through the work of shunning evils as sins before the Lord, a person enters into the doctrine of genuine truth.  This doctrine formed in the mind becomes a womb through which the Lord can be brought forth to view as the spiritual sense of the Word in the natural plane of our awareness.  For true doctrine, affirmed and illustrated through the spiritual practise of self-examination and repentance forms the basis for lifting our minds out of the historical aspects of the letter of the Word into its spiritual sense.  This is what is meant by Mary bringing forth a son…,

“A son, a male” signifies the doctrine of truth for the church which is called “the New Jerusalem,” because “son” signifies truth, and “a son, a male” signifies the truth of doctrine from the Word, consequently the doctrine of genuine truth which is for the church.  Apocalypse Explained 725.

This doctrine is “the son” that shall be called Jesus or “Jehovah our Saviour.”  This doctrine is the “the Holy One..” who is “…called the Son of God.”  This is how the angels of heaven understand those things belong to the Lord’s Advent for they are not concerned with persons and events in time as naturally minded people are, for they are, with the Lord, forever focused on eternal things that have to do with the regeneration of the human mind.  To enter into the true spirit of Christmas is to behold the Word as the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth, this is our God and He alone is our Saviour.  Apart from the acknowledgment of truths through their practise no one can be saved for…

…every man is reformed and regenerated by means of truths, for without truths man does not know what is good, or what is the nature of good, thus does not know the way to heaven, so truth, which is what is first born from the marriage of truth and good, was sanctified to Jehovah. This truth first born is also the doctrine of truth, for that which is first is the all in what follows, thus is in all truth, and all truth is doctrine. But it must be carefully noted that “the firstborn” signifies the truth that is of the good of charity, consequently it signifies the good of charity in its form and in its quality, and therefore truth. For truth is the form of good and the quality of good. This is signified by “the firstborn,” because from the good of love, which is signified by the womb and the infant in it, nothing else can be born but the good of charity; and this good does not become good until it has been formed and qualified, that is, until it is in the form in which it has its quality, and its form is called truth, and yet it is good in form.  Apocalypse Explained 725.4

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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