The Bible

 

Luke 2:1-7 : The Birth of Jesus (Luke)

        

Study the Inner Meaning

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 3325, 4594


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

On the Athanasian Creed 45, 136

De Verbo (The Word) 1, 7

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 6, 10, 67

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


  Spiritual Topics:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

1 Samuel 20:6

Isaiah 9:5

Word/Phrase Explanations

came to pass
The phrase “it came to pass,” often also translated as “it happened,” generally indicates the end of one spiritual state and the beginning of a...

world
The term "world" has both general and more specific meanings in the Bible, including the relatively literal sense of the natural, physical world. In more...

Every one
The phrase “Every one,” where it occurs in Genesis 20:7, signifies every thing or all things.

own
In many cases, the spiritual meaning of "own," both as a verb and as an adjective, is relatively literal. When people are described as the...

city
Cities of the mountain and cities of the plain (Jer. 33:13) signify doctrines of charity and faith.

galilee
Galilee was the northernmost province of Biblical Judea, a hilly area relatively remote from the center of Jewish culture in Jerusalem and bordered by foreigners...

bethlehem
There is a strong relationship between Ephrath and Bethlehem in the Bible; they might be two different names for the same town, or it’s possible...

son
Father, son, mother, and daughter, as in Luke 12:51, 53: By father against son, and by son against the father, is understood evil against truth,...

swaddling clothes
Swaddling clothes signify first truths, which are truths of innocence, and which are also truths of the Divine love. –Apocalypse Explained 706...

manger
'A water-trough' signifies the doctrine of charity.

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


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 Young Jesus Amazes the Scholars
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Commentary

 

The Birth of Jesus      

By Rev. Peter M. Buss Sr.

This painting by Richard Cook  of the newborn baby Jesus, with Mary and Joseph, evokes the spiritual power of this long-awaited advent.

Introduction:

In the Bible story of Jesus being born in Bethlehem, His birth on earth represents His birth in our hearts. His birth in us is the creation of unselfish love in our hearts. We cannot create this; only He can do it.

Before He can come to us we must do our part - obedience to His law, shunning the evils forbidden in the Ten commandments, doing good to the best of our abilities. The story of His birth follows those actions in our lives.

Luke 2:1: "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place when Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city."

Rome was the earthly government at that time. It brought order - subject to its whims. It represents the external government of our own reasoning power - that ordered, logical process which can amass legions of thoughts in patterns and attack a problem with ruthless force.

The Emperor called a census. He wanted to know how many people he had so he could tax them better. This tells of our life, when we are trying to be good. We too gather our mental powers, put the things of our minds into a more proper order so that we can live our lives. We do it from a rather worldly perspective. We feel that we are good, and that we have the power to order our lives.

Think of that census. Think of all those families criss-crossing the land, each going to the place from whence they came. Remember that when the tribes came into Canaan hundreds of years earlier, each was given an inheritance, and in fact the families' genealogies were kept in their original cities, recording each birth and all the descendants. It made sense that Rome would call such a census in Judea and Galilee.

This shaking up of the families represent our re-ordering of our minds as we try to live good lives, obedient to God.

But unknown to Caesar or to Herod, one journey was taking place which would change the course of history. It was of the Lord's providence that the census took place, and that Joseph, who was living in Nazareth, not in Bethlehem, would make a journey. For while we are trying to order our minds, rearranging our priorities, there is a part of our minds which is lifted into a new realm.

Luke 2:4: "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 lineage of David."

Joseph was a carpenter - working with tools of iron on wood, shaping the wood into useful items. He represents the human understanding - perhaps particularly that part of the understanding which is interested in religious and truly moral matters. Joseph, carving wood into pleasant forms, stands for how we use our understanding to mold our goodness, believing that this will bring us true happiness.

But true happiness comes from a much more miraculous source. It comes from the Lord incarnate, flowing into our hearts from within.

However, as we use our understanding to seek for the meaning of life and of goodness, we are lifted up into higher thoughts. The journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Judea, and especially to Bethlehem, represent a spiritual journey - the uplifting of our understandings to see deeper truths about life. Bethlehem, which means "the house of bread," represents the deepest meaning of the Lord's Word, a spiritual understanding of truth. So as Joseph went up to Bethlehem, our understandings are secretly raised up to see deeper truths. We think it's because we are working on understanding life. Joseph thought he obeyed Caesar's command, whereas it was the Lord's providence that led him to Bethlehem. So it is the Lord who secretly uplifts our thoughts.

David, the great king of Israel, represents spiritual thought also. Joseph was of the house of David. Our understanding seems to be very practical and earthly, but it is endowed with the power to see above the body and beyond the world. It is "of the house and lineage of David."

Luke 2:5: "To be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child."

As Joseph was promised to Mary, so our human understanding is promised in love to something rather precious inside of us. Mary, the virgin, represent the innocent affection for truth. Each of us has a strain of idealism deep within us. The understanding receives impulses from many sources, but as we try to obey the Lord it promises itself to the spiritual Mary - to a love of more innocent, apparently naive truth. We fall in love with ideals and with dreams of unselfish, worthwhile love.

We all have this idealism, for the Lord has secretly implanted it in our beings from the moment we are born, Every lovely feeling, every true thought, is stored within us by our loving God and becomes our spiritual Mary.

Joseph naturally thought that his marriage to Mary would produce a child who would bring them happiness. We think that if we marry our understanding to our ideals, we will build our happiness. And in one sense that is true. Yet in fact, it is the power of almighty God inflowing into our idealism that produces true love. As Joseph was not the father of Jesus, but was his natural guardian, so our understanding plays a role in our future happiness, but true love is a Divine birth within us. This is the true message of Christmas - that He who came to earth, He alone can warm people's hearts with love.

Luke 2:6: "And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered."

It took centuries for the Lord to be born on earth. During all that time He prepared people for His birth, and because of those promises, they looked forward to it.

We lose our innocence quite early, and feel, perhaps, that we are very selfish people. It takes time for the Lord to create love in our hearts. We'd love to become kind, totally loving people in an instant. That birth needs time and patience. But its time does come!

Luke 2:7: "And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for Him in the inn."

He could have been born anywhere on earth - in the most splendid palace, heir to worldly power and might. He chose a humble stable. Partly this was because He didn't come to be an earthly power. As He said, "Who is greater? He who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves." (Luke 22:27).

But the reasons were greater than that. Even in Bethlehem He could not be born in the inn. The inn represents a place of instruction, a place where people gather and exchange thoughts. But the inn was full, even as in our own minds, we often think we know it all.

So He was born in a stable, where the horses feed. A horse, which carries us where we want to go, represents an understanding of specific truths which show us the way in life. It represents an understanding of spiritual truth. And He was wrapped in swaddling cloths, which represent simple, innocent truths, and laid in the place where horses come to eat. Innocent truths are the ones we are tempted to scoff at - simple ideas like "It's good to be good," or "It's wrong to hurt others," or "I can use my abilities to bring happiness to those I love." These are among the most fundamental teachings to be found in all of Scripture.

In other words, the Lord, when He descends into our minds and hearts, finds that in many parts of our lives our spiritual "inns" are full. We think we know very well how to make our way in life. So He chooses instead to move us with His love in a special part of our mind - where we seek spiritual truths, and we do so from innocence.

We all have a spiritual manger in our minds. Every person has an innocent spot, where she or he wants to learn, and where she feels humble in learning ideas which will make life so very much better than it is now.

Conclusion: Our Savior wants to come to all of us. He created us for heaven, and in order that we may know the joy of heaven He teaches us His laws. When we respond, then His love is born in our hearts, and that birth follows this orderly pattern:

1. All the ideas of our minds are brought into order - apparently by our own efforts. (The census).

2. A spiritual journey takes place. Our understanding is gradually raised up from thinking only of worldly values into a new light. We take our idealism (our spiritual Mary) with us into that light, to the spiritual Bethlehem.

3. The Lord is not born in those truths which we have filled and perverted with purely worldly values (the inn).

4. Instead He is born into those innocent truths from His Word which we have always trusted and loved, and easily understood (our manger).

5. They are wrapped in simple, clear observations (the swaddling cloths) which protect our newfound love as it grows within us.

Commentary

 

Prophecies About Jesus      

By Rev. George McCurdy

By Meister des Ludwig-Psalters [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Currently at Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

For Christians, Christmas time is one of the most sacred, most joyous celebrations of the year. What about for people who are thinking about it, but who aren't sure about the whole "reason for the season"? What do we really know about what happened in Judea, 2000 years ago?

We're going to try to approach this topic from a neutral standpoint, and see where that leads us.

It's well-established that Jesus existed. He was physically, historically real. There is voluminous evidence from Christian sources, of course. Jesus Christ was also mentioned in non-Christian historical documents that have survived from that period. He's referred to twice by Josephus, the Jewish historian, in his work "Antiquities of the Jews" published in 93-94 AD. Tacitus, the Roman historian, writing in around 116 AD, also refers to "Christus" being put to death by the Romans under Pontius Pilate.

Was Jesus special? Even skeptics would need to wonder why and how this man from a small village in Galilee could launch a religion which would become the biggest, most influential one for at least the next two millennia of human history.

One of the intriguing things about Jesus is that his birth and life seem to have fulfilled prophecies from the Old Testament, which date back to the time of Moses - at least 1500 years BC, and to far older stories in an oral tradition. Those prophecies existed in texts written long before the Christian Era started.

What were some of those prophecies? There are many of them! Swedenborg lists some here, Doctrine of the Lord 6. In this article, we're just going to focus on a few of them.

In this very early prophecy, it's indicated that the Messiah would be born as the son of a woman:

"And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life, and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Genesis 3:14-15. This is confirmed in the story in Matthew 1:20.

In Micah, much later in the Bible, we read that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, in Judea:

"But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting."

Micah 5:2. This is confirmed in the story in Matthew 2:1, and Luke 2:4-6.

In Isaiah, we read that the Messiah would be born to a virgin:

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14. This is confirmed in the story in Matthew 1:22-23, and in Luke 1:26-31.

Lineage was an important factor, too. At least 5 forefathers of the promised Savior are named. First, he was prophesied to come from the line of Abraham, the progenitor of many of the peoples of the modern Middle East, including the Jews, the Arabs, the Lebanese, the Druze, and others. Genesis 12:3, Genesis 22:18. This prophecy is confirmed in Matthew 1:1, and Romans 9:5.

In the next generation, prophecy stated that the Savior would be descended from the line of Isaac, one of Abraham's two sons. See Genesis 17:19, Genesis 21:12. This is confirmed in Luke 3:34.

For the third generation, the Word states that the Messiah would be a descendant of Jacob. It's prophesied in Numbers 24:17, and confirmed in Matthew 1:2.

For the fourth generation, attention focuses on the tribe of Judah, who was one of the twelve sons of Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel). See Genesis 49:10, and then Luke 3:33, and Hebrews 7:14.

Many generations later, in the second book of Samuel, and again in Isaiah, there are prophecies that the Messiah would be heir to King David's throne. Read 2_Samuel 7:12-13, and Isaiah 9:7. Then see Luke 1:32-33, and Romans 1:3.

There are many more prophecies, and we will look at more of them in a future article. But, to summarize these ones that we've just listed, what would Old Testament readers in the time of Caesar Augustus be expecting?

In Bethlehem, a virgin would bear a son. He would be descended from Abraham, through the line of Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David.

That's the way the story runs, in the Gospels.

It's clear that the Old Testament wasn't altered to suit the "facts on the ground". The prophecies are already there in pre-Christian scrolls. That leaves two possibilities:

1) Scenario A: The New Testament could have been written to twist the facts to match the old prophecies. Faithful Jews were awaiting the Messiah; they would have wanted to find matching stories. In this scenario, Jesus could have been just a regular man, but a standout leader and teacher and healer. He was so inspiring that his apostles endured hardship and death to spread what became a global religion. The stories about him were exaggerated or modified to help match the prophecies.

2) Scenario B: The Old Testament text contains deep inner meaning, and its prophecies were actually prophetic and true. The facts of Jesus' birth and life and ministry actually did match and fulfull the prophecies. In this scenario, Jesus was truly a miracle baby.

Which scenario is right? In both, there's a recognition that the teachings of Jesus contained wisdom, and that there is great value in them. In New Christian thought, the choice is for Scenario B -- that Jesus really was the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, or Savior.

This of course requires some level of belief in miracles - prophecy, fulfillment, the virgin birth, angels bearing tidings, healings, feeding the multitudes. Can miracles really happen? Is it scientifically possible? Maybe they can... maybe as science advances, we will begin to understand those boundaries better. At some level, don't most of us believe in miracles -- in the miracle of the very existence of the universe, and of living organisms that can reproduce, and of human life, and of love?

How to end this article? The whole subject of miracles needs more thought. And, here it is, December 22, and... instead of getting more analytical, I find that right now I just want to "be" in the holy days of Christmas.

If you're feeling skeptical, have a look at Arcana Coelestia 2568, Arcana Coelestia 2588. They offer an interesting perspective!

---

One source for this article was "100 Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus: Messianic Prophecies Made Before the Birth of Christ", by Rose Publishing.


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