The Bible

 

Matthew 2 : Two Stories of Christmas

Study the Inner Meaning

        

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:

15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,

18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.

21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:

23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Exploring the Meaning of Matthew 2      

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter 2.

After Jesus is Born

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1. And when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came Magi from the east into Jerusalem,

2. Saying, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.”

3. But having heard, Herod the king was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

4. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born.

5. And they said unto him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written by the prophet:

6. ‘And thou Bethlehem, [of] the land of Judah, art by no means the least among the governors of Judah, for out of thee shall come a Governor, who shall shepherd My people Israel.’”

7. Then Herod, privately calling the Magi, precisely inquired of them at what time the star appeared.

8. And sending them to Bethlehem, he said, “Go and search earnestly for the little Child; and when you have found [Him], report to me, so that I also may come and worship Him.”

9. And when they had heard the king they went [out]; and behold, the star which they saw in the east went before them, till it came [and] stood over where the little Child was.

10. And having seen the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

11. And coming into the house, they found the little Child with Mary His mother, and falling [down] they worshiped Him; and opening their treasures, they offered to Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

12. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed into their own country by another way.

13. And when they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph, saying, “Arise and take the little Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt, and be there until I tell thee; for Herod is about to seek the little Child to destroy Him.”

14. And when he arose, he took the little Child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt,

15. And was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was declared by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called My Son.”

16. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the Magi, was exceedingly wrathful, and sent out and slew all the boys that were in Bethlehem, and in all her borders , from two years and under, according to the time which he had precisely inquired of the Magi.

17. Then was fulfilled what was declared by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,

18. “A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation, and weeping, and much howling, Rachel weeping [for] her children; and she was not willing to be comforted, because they are not.”

19. And when Herod was dead, behold, the angel of the Lord, in a dream appears to Joseph in Egypt,

20. Saying, “Arise, take the little Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for they are dead who sought the soul of the little Child.”
---

Joseph’s struggle within himself — as to whether or not to accept Mary and the child — represents the spiritual battle which each of us must undergo in the course of our regeneration. It is one thing to receive the Lord in the understanding (represented by Joseph), but quite another to allow Him to order the things of our will — represented by the angel telling Joseph to take Mary as his wife. This is the fiercer battle which now begins “after Jesus is born.”

The antagonist is Herod, the king of Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth. Comfortable and secure in his role as the supreme ruler of the land, Herod is deeply troubled by the report of the Wise Men who say, “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?” Spiritually seen, Herod, as king of Israel, represents total self-absorption, our corrupt hereditary will, setting itself up as the ruler of our lives. This is our state after fourteen generations of captivity in Babylon — a state in which we are governed by our basest emotions: greed, control, anger, fear, hatred and jealousy. We can be sure that whenever we find ourselves in a state like this, Herod is sitting comfortably and securely on his throne. He is a tyrannical ruler, easily threatened, but not easily dethroned. His motivating force is to destroy the Lord in us — even at His birth — rather than relinquish his control over us.

God knows that we need divine protection from the wrath of Herod who represents our selfish desire to control. God therefore speaks to Joseph (as He does to us) in a dream, saying “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and remain there until I bring you word; for Herod is about to seek the young Child to destroy Him” (2:13).

Egypt, at that time, was a world center for education and learning. Medicine, mathematics, poetry and many other fields of study were flourishing. So Jesus’ flight into Egypt represents the need that all of us have for basic education, not just the standard three “R’s,” (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic) but the fourth “R” as well — the basics of religion.

Religious truth, especially the most basic, can help defend us against the onslaughts of Herod — the despot of our lower nature, a fierce tyrant who strives to murder everything that is true in us, even in its most innocent beginning. This is represented by Herod’s massacre of the male children in and around Bethlehem: “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem, and in all its districts, from two years old and under” (2:16; emphasis added).

The name “Bethlehem,” comes from two Hebrew words: “Beth” meaning “house” and “lechem” meaning “bread.” Therefore, Bethlehem means “House of Bread” — a place of spiritual nourishment. In the context of this episode, Herod’s destruction of all the male children of Bethlehem, two years old and under, represents how evil inclinations can destroy our earliest impulses to learn truth. These earliest desires to acquire knowledge of truth are symbolized by the male babies of Bethlehem. Whenever we fall into states of cynicism and skepticism, refusing to learn or trust the simple teachings of the Word, whenever we find ourselves without desire to seek the truth, and whenever the distractions of the world lure us away from the quest for wisdom, we can know that “Herod” has risen up in our hearts. A massacre has begun. “Herod in us” is striving to murder the innocent and tender qualities that have been born in our heavenly Bethlehem.

But if we flee to and remain in Egypt (as Jesus does), we will be protected. It is the place where our instruction begins. This is a temporary, but essential part of our spiritual development; temporary because we must eventually return to the land of Canaan where the truth will be applied to our lives; and essential, because these basic, natural truths are the only means by which we can be prepared to receive the higher insights that will eventually flow in from above. 1

For most of us, the period of our instruction in basic truths can last for many years, well into adolescence and beyond. In fact, it never really ends. Throughout our lives we will continue to acquire knowledge, both worldly and spiritual. We will, as it were, “go down into Egypt.” And, as we do so, learning truth and putting it into our lives, we will begin to see how the literal teachings of scripture “open up” like parting clouds, revealing more and more of the interior truths they contain.

In Jesus’ own case, this process of acquiring basic truth was much more rapid. Although Matthew does not tell us how long Jesus remained in Egypt, we can safely assume He was still quite young when He left, for an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the soul of the young Child’s are dead” (2:20; emphasis added).

Growing up in Nazareth

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21. And he arose, [and] took the little Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22. And hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea instead of his father Herod, he feared to go thither; but being warned in a dream, he departed into the parts of Galilee.

23. And coming, He dwelt in a city called Nazareth, so that it might be fulfilled which was declared by the prophets, that He should be called a Nazarene.
---

Eventually, Joseph, Mary, and the young Child decide to return to Judea. This represents the next step in our spiritual journey. Once we have learned the simple, basic, most literal truths of the Word (sojourning in Egypt), it is time to return to Judea. It is time to be further instructed, and to see what is more interiorly concealed within the letter of the Word. This is a necessary step in every person’s spiritual development. The letter of the Word serves as a literal history of people and places; it is an introduction to basic truth. It does not, however, reveal the full details of our spiritual journey, or provide the kind of discernment we need for the refinement of our souls. Not yet, but that will surely come when we are ready to receive further instruction.

Meanwhile, as the divine narrative continues, Joseph is “warned by God in a dream” that it is not yet time to return to their home. Though Herod is dead, his son is still in power. And so Mary, Joseph, and the young Child turn aside into the region of Galilee, into a city called Nazareth. This is yet another step on the journey of spiritual development. In the language of sacred scripture, it could be called, “growing up in Nazareth.

But what does it mean to “grow up in Nazareth”?

Nazareth of Galilee was a primitive region populated mostly by farmers, fishermen and uneducated tradespeople who knew very little about theology or the laws of the temple.

Unlike the well-educated (but misguided) religious leaders in Judea, the people of Galilee were not part of the religious establishment of the time. Although they had a strong belief in God, they were not familiar with the main doctrines taught by the religious leaders or the traditions of the temple authorities. And yet, a simple belief in God is often better than a more complicated belief system based on human reason rather than divine revelation. In this regard, the “learned world” often looks down upon people who believe in simplicity that there is a God, and that God is good. 2

The simple, hard-working, good people of Nazareth, therefore, symbolize the humility and simplicity we need to believe in God and live according to His teachings. It is remarkable that almost all the early disciples came from Galilee. It was not their theological training that made them receptive to the teachings of Jesus — for they had very little. In fact, it might be said that it was the absence of theological training — or to be more precise, the absence of false and misleading theology — that made them receptive to Jesus’ words. 3

Galilee, then, and the city of Nazareth which was in the region of Galilee, represent the simplicity of heart and the goodness of life that can receive God openly without skepticism or negativity. Because their religious principles are simple and uncomplicated — love God, love your neighbor — these people can receive Jesus’ teachings readily and with joy. All this is contained in the scriptural statement that Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee, in the “land of the Gentiles.” 4 These words speak about a state in us “where Jesus grows up” — a state in which we are willing to receive basic truths simply, uncritically, and with joy.

As we shall see later in the narrative, the fact that Jesus grows up in Nazareth, in the land of the Gentiles, will be held against Him. The religious leaders will regard Him as poor and uneducated, untrained in their religious tenets, and therefore incapable of understanding or conveying spiritual truth to anyone. And yet, as this episode closes, we learn that His growing up in Nazareth is the fulfillment of prophecy, for we read, “And He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’” (2:23).

As we reflect on this miraculous moment in the early life of Jesus, it becomes evident that those simple, most basic truths we learn (Egypt) must be protected in a place of simple trust and unalloyed faith (Nazareth of Galilee). This is a necessary stage in which early truths from the letter of the Word can deepen and develop. It is why we feel a natural desire to protect the innocence of children from corrupting influences — Herod, and the son of Herod. And it is the same with each of us as we learn new truth from the letter of the Word, and allow it to grow up within us in a state of simple faith.

Footnotes:

1. Arcana Coelestia 1462:6: “That the Lord when an infant was brought into Egypt, signified the same that is here signified by Abram [instruction in truths from the letter of the Word]; and it took place for the additional reason that He might fulfill all the things that had been represented concerning Him. In the inmost sense the migration of Jacob and his sons into Egypt represented the first instruction of the Lord in knowledges from the Word.” See also Apocalypse Explained 654.

2. Apocalypse Explained 447:5: “Galilee signifies the establishment of the church with the Gentiles who are in the good of life and who receive truths.”

3. Arcana Coelestia 4760:4: “It is well-known that the learned have less belief than the simple in a life after death, and that in general they see Divine truths less clearly than the simple do. The reason is that they consult facts, of which they possess a greater abundance than others, with a negative attitude, and by this destroy in themselves any insight gained from a higher or more interior position. Once this has been destroyed they no longer see anything in the light of heaven but in the light of the world; for facts exist in the light of the world, and if they are not lit up by the light of heaven they bring darkness, however different it may seem to be to them. This was why the simple believed in the Lord but not the scribes and Pharisees, who were the learned in that nation.”

4. Apocalypse Explained 730: “Gentiles signify those who are in ignorance of truth, and yet are in the good of life according to their religious principle, from which they have a desire for truths.”

From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 113, 117, 1171, 1462, 1502, 1540, 2135, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 277, 503, 526, 913

Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 23

True Christian Religion 205


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 72, 242, 324, 422, 433, 448, 449, ...

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 2, 41

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 14, 31, ...

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Exodus 4:19, 22

Numbers 23:22, 24:17

Joshua 5:14

2 Samuel 2

1 Kings 11:40

1 Chronicles 2

Psalms 72:10, 78:71

Isaiah 11:1, 40:11, 60:6

Jeremiah 26:21, 31:15

Hosea 11:1

Jonah 4:6

Micah 5:1, 2

Bible Word Meanings

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...

wise
At its heart, wisdom is love's imperative desire to take form. That's a tricky statement, but think of it this way: If you love someone,...

jews
It would be simple to think that when the Bible mentions "Jews" it is simply talking about the descendants of the tribe of Judah, the...

seen
The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

star
'Stars' signify the knowledge of truth and good. 'Stars' are frequently mentioned in the Word, and always signify goods and truths, but in an opposite...

come
Coming (Gen. 41:14) denotes communication by influx.

worship
'Worship,' as in Revelation 13:12, signifies acknowledging something to be sacred in the church.

heard
Thanks to modern science, we now understand that hearing actually happens in the brain, not the ears. The ears collect vibrations in the air and...

troubled
The Bible often talks of people being "troubled." The internal meaning is pretty straightforward; it indicates a state of spiritual turmoil, usually due to the...

chief priests
'The chief priests and scribes,' as in Matthew 20:18, signify the adulterations of good and the falsifications of truth.

scribes
'The chief priests and scribes,' as in Matthew 20:18, signify the adulterations of good and the falsifications of truth.

christ
Christ is one of the names of the Lord. It derives from Greek, and means "the anointed one," a King or Messiah. Christ as King...

said
As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

written
If knowing what’s right were the same as doing what’s right, we would all be thin, healthy, hard-working, law-abiding, faithful to our spouses and free...

the least
'Tittle' or 'the least' in the Word represents heavenly things.

least
The idea of "least" is not addressed directly in Swedenborg, but a central idea is relatively clear from several references to Matthew 25:40: And the...

governor
"Rulers" or "governors" in the Bible represent the most basic, most essential true ideas that guide us in life, ideas that spring directly from the...

go
In the physical world, the places we inhabit and the distances between them are physical realities, and we have to get our physical bodies through...

saw
The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

went before
To "go before" in the Bible means either to lead or to prepare, depending on context. When it is said of the Lord or things...

rejoiced
Feelings of joy and rejoicing flow from our affections, not from our thoughts. Some people might argue that that's not true, that you can rejoice...

joy
Feelings of joy and rejoicing flow from our affections, not from our thoughts. Some people might argue that that's not true, that you can rejoice...

worshipped
'Worship,' as in Revelation 13:12, signifies acknowledging something to be sacred in the church.

opened
To open,' as in Revelation 9, signifies communication and conjunction.

treasures
'Treasure,' as in Matthew 13:44, signifies divine truth in the Word.

gifts
The gift which Abraham gave to the sons of the concubines which he had, as in Genesis 25:6, signifies lots in the Lord's spiritual kingdom....

and frankincense
'Perfumes, ointment, and frankincense,' as in Revelation 18:13, signify spiritual aspects of worship.

frankincense
Frankincense was one of the three gifts presented by the wise men, sometimes called the magi, to Jesus. The three gifts - gold, frankincense, and...

and myrrh
In Genesis 37:25, 'spices, resin, and myrrh' signify interior natural truths joined to good in the natural level. Among the ancients, they used things with...

myrrh
Myrrh is a perfume and medicine made from the resin from a genus of thorn trees. In the Word, is represents our early knowledges about...

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...

way
These days we tend to think of "roads" as smooth swaths of pavement, and judge them by how fast we can drive cars on them....

angel
"Angels" in the Bible represent qualities of the Lord himself, or a variety of things that come directly from the Lord. On a lower level...

arise
It is common in the Bible for people to "rise up," and it would be easy to pass over the phrase as simply describing a...

seek
The meaning of "to seek" in the Bible is pretty straightforward, but there is a bit of nuance: Swedenborg tells us that in most cases...

might
'Might' denotes the forces or power of truth.

fulfilled
When the Lord said that all things which were written concerning him were fulfilled, he meant that all things were fulfilled in their inmost sense.

spoken
Like "say," the word "speak" refers to thoughts and feelings moving from our more internal spiritual levels to our more external ones – and ultimately...

under
In the Bible, things that are lower down, or under, physically, generally represent things that are lower or more external spiritually. In some cases, the...

mourning
'Weeping and wailing,' as in Revelation 18:15, signifies grief of the soul and heart, and so it has reference to the understanding and the will.

galilee
when Galilee is mentioned in the Bible, it's referring to the "gentiles", to the spiritual states of people who were not in the Jewish church....

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

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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.


 Adoration of the Wise Men
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 Adoration of the Wise Men
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Angels in the Christmas Story
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Behold, the Star
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Birth of the Lord
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Childhood of Jesus
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Christmas Star
Gives directions for assembling four large triangles into a beautiful star. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Correspondences of Gold
Illustrations of three stories in the Word that mention gold. (Quotations are the King James translation.)
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Fall Down and Worship Him
Think about your day tomorrow, and prioritize your various activities by thinking about what the Lord wants you to do.
Activity | Ages over 15

 Five Christmas Scenes
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Flee to Egypt
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Flight into Egypt
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Flight into Egypt Silhouette
"Cut out the pieces to show the silhouettes of Mary and Joseph taking the young Child to Egypt, then assemble on a large piece of blue paper and add stars by using glitter or small star stickers. "
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Following the Star
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Follow the Star Dramatization
This simple dramatization of the story of the wise men following the star to find the baby Lord includes a script and an illustration of Mary, Joseph, and the young Child.
Activity | Ages 3 - 7

 Gifts for the Lord
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Gifts of the Wise Men
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 His Star Still Shines
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Jesus' Childhood
People are born without a set purpose and develop a purpose as they learn and choose a pathway. Jesus was born with an identity and a purpose; He had to discover His identity and become true to it.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Joy in the Coming of Our Lord
Like the star that led the wise men, the truth will lead us to the Lord and make us happy. But the real joy in our lives will be when we come to the Lord offering gifts to Him, as the wise men did.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Lacing Star
Print this star onto card stock, punch holes around the edge, then use yarn with sparkly (metallic) strands to “sew” around the edge of the star to make it sparkle.
Project | Ages 4 - 8

 Making Christmas Star Cookies
Ideas for decorating rolled cookies cut in the shape of stars. 
Project | Ages over 7

 Memory Verse: The Guiding Star
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Pop-up Crèche Card for Christmas
A lovely project to color and assemble. Designed by Eudora Sellner Walsh.
Project | Ages 7 - 17

 Quotes: Prophecies of the Advent
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: The Guiding Star
Teachings from the Lord's Word for Christmas about the guiding star.
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: Unto Us a Child Is Born
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: Using Our Talents
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Scroll of Angelic Appearances in Christmas Story
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Show and Tell the Gifts of the Wise Men
Read about the three gifts in Matthew 2. Then show everyone some gold, frankincense and myrrh. Discuss ways we can give these symbolic gifts to the Lord.
Activity | All Ages

 Signs at Christmas
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Star of Wonder
Four ways to picture the star in the dark of night.
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 Star Out of Jacob
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Star Out of Jacob with Quote
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Stars
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Story of the Wise Men Scene Boxes
Paint four sides of a box to show 4 different scenes from the story of the wise men.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Story of the Wisemen Stained Glass Windows
Make stained glass windows depicting the star of wonder, the three wise men following the star or the wise men presenting their gifts before the Lord.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Strange Gifts
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Christmas Star
As we think about stars at Christmas time, let us invite the Lord into our hearts and minds so that His Christmas star will light the way to heaven for us.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Flight into Egypt
Angels came to Joseph in a dream to help protect the baby Lord. Angels can help protect us too. Sample from the Jacob's Ladder Program, Level 1, for ages 6-7.
Religion Lesson | Ages 6 - 7

 The Gold of the Wisemen
Gold stands for loving the Lord. This was the first gift that the wise men gave the Lord because it is essential for worshiping the Lord. You can give the Lord the gift of spiritual gold - the gift of love. 
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Guiding Star [salt crystal star]
Paint a beautiful guiding star and then use salt crystals on wet paint to make a starry sky for the background.
Project | Ages over 7

 The Innocence of Love
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord Come into the World
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Lord Comes into the World (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Lord Comes into the World (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Lord Comes into the World (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Murder of the Innocents and the Flight into Egypt
Within each one of us the Lord’s wonderful Providence keeps what is most important safe from harm. In time, this protection makes it possible for us to prepare ourselves to become angels in heaven.
Worship Talk | Ages 15 - 17

 The Slaughter of the Innocents
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Star of Bethlehem
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Three Gifts of the Wise Men
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Visit of the Wise Men
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Visit of the Wise Men (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Visit of the Wise Men (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Visit of the Wise Men (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Wise Men
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Wise Men
Two project ideas for picturing the wise men.  
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 The Wise Men
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The Wise Men
The wise men brought gifts to the baby Lord. How are we to search for the Lord? What gifts should we bring Him?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Wise Men
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Wise Men
A story for young children with color illustrations.
Story | Ages 4 - 10

 The Wisemen Diorama
Print this project onto thick paper (such as cover stock). Then color the wise men, the camels, and the background scene of Bethlehem and assemble a diorama with the wise men looking at the star. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Wisemen Present Gifts
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Wisemen Rejoice to See the Star
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Wise Men Worship the Lord
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Christmas Initial Letters
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Christmas Scenes
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Kings from the East
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Wise Men
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen?
Lesson and activities comparing what the Lord wills to what He permits so that people can be free to make heavenly or hellish choices in their lives.
Religion Lesson | Ages over 15

 Why the Lord Was Taken into Egypt
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Wise Men Follow the Star
At the time of the Lord’s birth a beautiful star appeared in the night sky. It was a star of heavenly light and only people whose spiritual eyes had been opened could see it. Far away from Bethlehem, in the land to the east, this special star was seen by some wise men. Sample from the Jacob’s Ladder Program, Level 2, for ages 7-8.
Religion Lesson | Ages 7 - 8

 Wise Men from the East
Presents a dramatic word-picture of the wise men's journey and a message for us all: If you wish to be wise, and to be made happy with an exceeding great joy, follow the Lord's star.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Wisemen See Star
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Wisemen's Gift Ornaments
Make ornaments for your tree by printing pictures of wise men's gifts on stiff paper (such as cover stock). Then color the gifts, cut them out, and display on your tree.
Project | Ages up to 10

Commentary

 

Two Stories of Christmas

     

By Rev. Peter M. Buss Sr.

Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem, by William Brassey Hole

There are two stories of Christmas. We usually blend them into one chronological account, but they are very distinct. One appears in the Gospel of Matthew, 1:18-25, 2:1-23, and the other in Luke 2: 6-20.

Matthew tells the story from Joseph’s point of view. The angel appears to him, telling him not to fear to take Mary as his wife, even though she is expecting a Child. He names the child. The wise men appear, and then Joseph is warned to flee to Egypt, and told to return when Herod died.

Luke is Mary’s story - in fact, she alone could have recounted these things to Luke. The story of Zacharias and Elisabeth; Mary’s visit to Elisabeth; the birth of John; the angel appearing to Mary, the birth of Jesus, and the tale of the shepherds all speak of Mary’s part in this event.

There are remarkably consistent differences in the accounts. In the Matthew story the angel always appears in a dream, and he gives commands. “Do not be afraid to take to yourself Mary your wife.” “Call His name Jesus.” “Do not return to Herod” was the command to the wise men. “Arise, take the young child and Mary his mother, and flee into Egypt.” “Return, for they are dead who sought the young Child’s life.” Specific commands, which Joseph and the wise men obeyed.

In the Luke story the angel is actually seen, and carries on conversations with both Zacharias and Mary. An angel choir appears to the shepherds. What is surprising is that no actual commands are given. Zacharias is told that his prayer will be answered, and he will have a son. Mary is told she will be with child of the Holy Spirit, and she willingly accepts it. The shepherds are told the tidings of great joy, but it is they who say, one to another, “Let us now go, even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Another amazing difference is the presence of Herod and his people in Matthew. He is shown in his wickedness and deceit, pretending to wish to worship Jesus while plotting to kill Him. He uses his counselors, none of whom are interested in the actual birth of the Christ, though they now know that a star has heralded His birth. Then there is the terrible story of Herod’s murder of the little ones around Bethlehem.

None of this appears in Luke. There is just a glancing reference: “There was in the days of Herod the king of Judea......” What a different tone, therefore, appears in Luke. It is one of peace and rejoicing, of wonder and gratitude, spoken from the heart by Zacharias, by Mary, and by Simeon. By contrast, Matthew tells of Joseph’s sadness and thought of putting Mary away privately, of Herod’s treachery and the sin of infanticide. And Matthew tells also how futile were Herod’s efforts, for the angel of the Lord provided that Joseph brought the infant Lord safely out of his reach.

So what are these two stories telling us about our lives, here, today? They speak of how the Lord is born in our minds and hearts. Let us leave Zacharias and Elisabeth and John out of this sermon. John represents repentance, and his birth precedes the birth of Jesus. But after we have repented of our sins, then the Lord Himself comes to be born in us. That birth is the implanting within us of charity - the ability to love others unselfishly. It is this birth which makes us into angels, which puts the stamp of eternal love in our hearts, which causes us to be “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

When charity begins to become felt in us we respond in two distinct ways. Matthew tells how our understanding reacts to His coming. Luke speaks of how His birth receives a response in the new will which the Lord is creating in us.

Joseph seems to represent the good of truth. He was a carpenter, working with tools of iron on wood to shape it, and his very act pictures the efforts of the human understanding, taking the truths of revelation and working to apply them to a life of goodness.

Joseph at first feared that Mary had been unfaithful to him, and that the child was conceived of a man. When we have done the deeds of repentance, and the Lord begins to create this wonderful, heavenly love inside of us, we too will doubt. How can I, a person who has been selfish up to date, how can I feel these tender, loving thoughts towards others? How can I be moved to do kind deeds with no thought of reward? I must be deceiving myself. This is just human-born selfishness under another guise.

But an angel of the Lord told Joseph that this birth was unique in all of history. The angel represents an insight from within, the presence of the Lord within the truths that we have learned, which gives us assurance that indeed unselfish love can be ours. The Word has promised that it will be so. Don’t doubt it. You can be a truly loving, unselfish, caring person. And when you feel this love inside of you, call it by its proper name. Call it “Jesus,” which means, “Jehovah is the Savior.” Realize that this is salvation come into your heart.

Joseph obeyed the angel. We need to believe that charity can be ours, and unite ourselves to the innocent love for the truth (which is what Mary represents).

Then, when this beautiful charity blossoms in our hearts, new truths come to herald that birth. The wise men had studied the Word, knew that a star would appear when the Christ was born, and took a long journey to find Him. The truths they represent, learned because we are moved to study and reflect on His Word, are the ones that tell us how to live the life of love. They are conscious truths, and they spur us to action.

The wise men gave three gifts to Jesus, and for two thousand years they were the last people on earth to know why these gifts, and no others, were suitable. For there are only three things we can give to the Lord, only three things we can withhold. Myrrh represents obedience; frankincense, love to others; and gold, love to the Lord Himself. We can withhold these from the Lord and He cannot make us give them to Him. When moved by charity, we plan to offer Him the only gifts which we can possibly give - the offerings of a grateful heart to obey, to love His children, and to love Him.

But the Matthew story contains Herod also. Within each of us there is a powerful love of self, and all sorts of false and horrible thoughts are tied to it. Through this love the hells seek to kill our unselfish instincts. They use deceit, they even use the truths of the Word (as Herod did when seeking to know where Christ should be born). For much of our lives we have given a fairly free rein to our selfish impulses. They don’t relinquish their kingship over us without a struggle. The story of Herod speaks of the plots of the hells to destroy our love for others, and of how the Lord protects us. When we obey the commands of His Word our love grows, quietly and secretly, in a safe place where Herod cannot find it.

So we come to the gospel of Luke. Why is Herod not mentioned there? It is in the Lord’s amazing mercy that there are times when selfishness seems to be a distant memory. We know it’s there - “In the days of Herod the King,” Luke says. We know that battles lie ahead, but there are moments when we see the joy of life, and these feelings give us an inner reason to fight for heaven. When you first fall in love, you feel only unselfish love for that person. At times you read the Word, and feel in its pages the certainty of the Lord’s love, and its promise of a heaven, a life of charity, just for you!

Selfishness seems far off. You know it will come back, but right now you know that there is a life beyond selfishness. There truly is a greater love that leaves self behind, and at times, at oh-so-precious times, you are allowed to feel it. The Lord touches our hearts, and the best image of that is Christmas night in the stable in Bethlehem.

In our peaceful states there is Mary, the innocent affection for truth. We often call it idealism. It is a deep-seated conviction about the highest ideals in life. We see deeply into the Word, see the values it teaches, we want a value system that will last for all time. We want the Lord to be our God, the God of our hearts and minds. In our innocent times we just don’t question these things, we long for them. Mary, betrothed, and longing for marriage, represents this innocent love, longing to experience the full heavenly marriage of good and truth, to make ideals work.

Mary went to Bethlehem, for that little town represents new truth, the truth of the internal sense of the Word. To go from Galilee to Bethlehem is to go upward, into the deeper regions of our minds, and experience that love which is the birth of the Lord in us. It is to feel, in the living waters of the Word, that we do love others, and this love is “God with us.”

Yet the inn at Bethlehem had no room for the infant Jesus. Many spiritual truths in our minds have languished, and lost their meaning. Other needs have crowded them out, even falsified them. There are many places in our minds where we know the truth, but that knowledge is full of earthly concerns which take the joy, the wonder out of it.

In His mercy the Lord prepares other places in our minds. The spiritual manger stands for lower truths, simple ideals long held precious. For example, you have truths in your minds about how to care for infants and how to teach little children about the Word and how to care for the needs of the elderly or those who are hurting. You understand these truths. A manger, where horses feed, represents such an understanding.

And you have simple, innocent ideas in your minds also which are, as it were, wrapped around charity. These truths tell you that certain things hurt others, that certain things, said with gentleness, touch their hearts. These truths tell you when to deal gently with others, and when to be firm but loving at the same time. They are simple ideas from the Word, first truths, which keep charity warm in your heart. “....and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger.”

How beautiful is the story of the shepherds. They too represent interior truths, long held, which through the night of our selfish lives have kept us turning towards good values. They kept watch over our spiritual flock, our valuable feelings, even though we have often been selfish and uncaring. These values are called forth, and respond with joy when love is born in our hearts.

The story of Luke is one of a free response to the Lord and His creation of heaven in our minds. It is full of joy. Zacharias prophesied, with a heart full of gratitude. Mary’s soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. Simeon gave thanks because he had seen the Lord’s salvation, prepared for all people. The shepherds returned, praising God for all that they had seen.

When you feel heartfelt gratitude in your lives because of a special love the Lord has granted you, - why then, stop, stand still, lift up your heart and rejoice in that moment. And know this: that if you persist in following Him, that special love will become your heaven. It will be a love born of no human father. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you, and that holy love growing in you is indeed born of God.

Two stories of Christmas. Both so beautiful. The Lord gave each to us that we may see with our understandings, and feel in our hearts the wonder of this holy birth. They are secret stories, scarce felt because of the noisy pressures of worldly life, but revealed in all their wonder for the New Church. The spiritual Joseph and wise men are conscious, understood truths which are obeyed, and bring deep joy to the human mind. The spiritual Mary and Bethlehem and the manger and the swaddling cloths and the shepherds represent affections for deep ideals, and for practical ideas. These find inner happiness and peace when He comes to us.

For the greatest event in human history was the birth on earth of God Himself. And the greatest event in anyone’s life is when there is born to you the love from God that will never die. This is truly the spirit of Christmas.

(References: Matthew 2; The Apocalypse Explained 706)

From Swedenborg's Works

 

Apocalypse Explained #324

Study this Passage

        
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324. And golden bowls full of incense, signifies confession from spiritual goods. This is evident from the signification of "golden bowls," which are also called "censers," and "incense pans," as being truths from good; for "bowls," like all containing vessels, signify truths, and "gold," of which they were made, signifies good, therefore "golden bowls" are truths from good. (That "vessels" signify truths, because truths serve good as recipient and containing vessels, see Arcana Coelestia 3068, 3079, 3316, 3318; also "the vessels of the altars," "of burnt offering," and "of incense," n. 9723, 9724; and that "gold" signifies good, above, n. 242 It is evident also from the signification of "incense," as being those things of worship that are done from spiritual good, or from the good of charity, and are therefore gratefully perceived. Such things are signified by "incense," because all things that are instituted in the Israelitish nation were representative of celestial and spiritual things; so also were the things relating to odor; things of pleasant odor represented pleasant perception, but those of unpleasant odor unpleasant perception. On this account incense was made of fragrant spices, myrrh, onycha, galbanum, and frankincense. Moreover, there is a correspondence between odor and perception, as can be seen from this, that in the spiritual world, where all things perceived by the senses correspond, the perceptive of good and truth is made sensible as fragrance from pleasant odors, and vice versa (respecting this see what is shown from experience, Arcana Coelestia 1514, 1517-1519, 1631, 4626, 4628, 4630, 4631, 5711-5717). From this it is that also in the common language of men, to smell means to perceive; for such expressions, like many others, have come into human discourse from correspondence; for the spirit of man is actually in the spiritual world, although man is not conscious of it. Moreover, the faculty of perception that man has, is what produces in his body the sense of smell, and this too from correspondence. But this is an arcanum that can with difficulty be credited, because it has been hitherto unknown. It is to be noted that this sweet smell or fragrance is produced by the good of love and charity, but by means of truth, not by good itself without truth, still less by means of the truth that is called truth of faith without good; for good without truth has nothing perceptive, neither has truth without good.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 4630-4631, 9723-9724; Revelation 5:8; The Apocalypse Explained 242)


[2] "Incense" signifies those things of worship that are done from spiritual good, because spiritual good has its origin and existence from celestial good, which good is the good of love to the Lord from the Lord, and is therefore the very good of heaven, for that good is immediately from the Lord, and the Lord is with angels in that good as in what is His. This is even so far true that whether you say that the Lord is in them and they in the Lord, or that the Lord is with them in that good and they are in the Lord when in that good, it is the same. Spiritual good, which has its origin and existence from celestial good, is the good of charity towards the neighbor; worship from this good is what is signified by "incense." As all worship of the Lord comes from good, although through truths, and as there are two universal goods that make the heavens and distinguish them into two kingdoms, namely, celestial good, which is the good of love to the Lord, and spiritual good, which is the good of charity towards the neighbor, therefore with the sons of Israel there were two altars, one for burnt offerings, the other for incense-offerings; the altar of burnt offering signifying worship from the good of celestial love, and the altar of incense worship from the good of spiritual love; thence it is clear what was represented by "incense."

[3] That this is so can be seen from passages in the Word where the two are mentioned. As in Moses:

Thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon; and thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and thou shalt put it before the veil that is over the ark of the Testimony, before the mercy-seat. And Aaron shall burn thereon incense of spices every morning, when dressing the lamps he shall burn it, and in making the lamps to ascend between the evenings he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before Jehovah in your generations. Ye shall make no strange incense to ascend thereon, nor burnt-sacrifice, nor meal-offering, nor drink-offering (Exodus 30:1-10).

That this "altar," and the "burning incense" upon it, signified worship from spiritual good, is evident from its having been placed in the tent of meeting without the veil, where also were the lamps; and the tent signified the Lord's spiritual kingdom; while that part of the tent that was within the veil signified the Lord's celestial kingdom, as can be seen from what is shown in Arcana Coelestia 9457, 9481, 9485) respecting the tent, in which was the table for the bread of faces, and in which was the altar of incense and the lampstand, also respecting the ark, in which was the Testimony, and upon which was the mercy-seat (n. 9457, 9481, 9485, 10545). It is there shown that the things that were in the tent without the veil, namely, the lamp stand, the altar of incense, and the table for the bread, signified such things as are of the spiritual kingdom, all of which have reference to spiritual good and its truth. The "table, upon which was the bread of faces," signified the reception of celestial good in spiritual good (see n. 9527); the "lampstand" with the "lamps" signified the spiritual itself of that kingdom (n. 9548, 9551, 9556, 9561, 9572, 9783); the "altar of incense" signified worship from spiritual good; and because worship from spiritual good was signified by burning incense upon that altar, and the spiritual itself by the "lampstand," it was commanded that Aaron should burn incense upon it every morning and evening, when he dressed the lamps. (But these things are more fully explained in Arcana Coelestia 10176-10213, where these particulars are treated of.)

(References: Arcana Coelestia 10176)


[4] And because spiritual good has its origin and existence from celestial good (as was said above), not only was that altar placed near the veil that was over the ark, but it was also commanded that when Aaron should make atonement for himself and for his house, he should bring the incense within the veil, which signified the influx, communication, and conjunction of celestial good and spiritual good. Of this it is written in Moses:

When Aaron shall make an atonement for himself and for his house he shall kill the bullock of the sin-offering; and he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before Jehovah, and his hands full of the incense of spices, and he shall bring it within the veil, that he may put the incense upon the fire before Jehovah; and the cloud of the incense shall cover the mercy-seat that is upon the Testimony, that he die not (Leviticus 16:11-13).

That "he should take fire from off the altar of burnt-offering," and "should put incense upon the fire," signified that spiritual good, which is the good of charity, has existence and proceeds from celestial good, which is the good of love to the Lord (that the "fire of the altar" signified that good, see Arcana Coelestia 4489, 6314, 6832, 9714, and elsewhere). This is why the fire for burning incense was not taken from anywhere else than from the altar of burnt-offering. When Aaron made atonement for himself and his house he was to burn the incense within the veil because Aaron as chief priest represented the Lord in respect to the good of love, and by his functions he represented the things that proceed from that good, all of which relate to spiritual good; spiritual good, unless it is from celestial good, is not good; except for this Aaron's function could not have been from the Divine, or could not have represented anything of the Divine; and this is why Aaron was threatened with death unless he did as he was commanded.

[5] For the same reason also Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, were consumed by fire from heaven because they burnt incense from other fire than the fire of the altar of burnt-offering, which is offering worship from a love other than love to the Lord; respecting which it is thus written in Moses:

Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer and put strange fire therein, and laid incense thereon. Therefore fire went out from before Jehovah and devoured them, and they died, afterwards they were carried without the camp (Leviticus 10:1-5).

"They were carried without the camp" signified that their worship was not from heaven, because not from love to the Lord; for "the camp of the sons of Israel" represented heaven and the (see Arcana Coelestia 4236, 10038).

[6] Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, with their company, were swallowed up by the earth, although they took fire from the altar and burnt incense, because "their murmuring against Moses and Aaron" signified the profanation of the good of celestial love; for "Moses" and "Aaron" represented the Lord and "to murmur" (that is, to rebel) against the Lord and at the same time to perform holy offices, is profanation; but as they took the fire from the altar, that fire was cast out, and their censers were made into a covering for the altar; respecting which it is thus written in Moses:

Moses said to them that they should take fire and put it into their censers which was also done; but they were swallowed up (Numbers 16).

But afterwards it was commanded:

That they should gather up the censers, and scatter the fire hitherwards; and of the censers, which were of brass, they should make broad plates, a covering to the altar, because they had been sanctified (Numbers 16:37-38).

The censers had been sanctified by the "fire of the altar," which signified Divine celestial love.

(References: Numbers 16:1-35)


[7] Because spiritual good, which is the good of charity towards the neighbor, derives its essence and soul from celestial good, which is the good of love to the Lord, therefore also "frankincense," which signifies spiritual good, was put upon the "bread of faces," which signified celestial good; as can be seen from these words in Moses:

And frankincense shall be put upon the bread of faces which is upon the table in the tent of meeting, that the bread may be for a memorial (Leviticus 24:7).

"That the bread may be for a memorial" signifies that the Lord may receive and give heed; for all worship of the Lord which is truly worship comes from celestial good through spiritual good; for spiritual good, which is charity towards the neighbor, is an effect of celestial good, for charity towards the neighbor is the performance of uses, and living a moral life from a heavenly origin (respecting which see Heaven and Hell 390, 484, 530-535; and The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem 84-107), this, therefore, is spiritual good; while celestial good is looking to the Lord and acknowledging that every good and truth is from Him, and that from man, or from what is man's own, there is nothing but evil.

[8] That the incense was to be burned from no other fire than the fire of the altar of burnt-offering, which signified celestial good, which is the good of love to the Lord, is also evident from other passages, as in Moses:

When the congregation murmured against Moses and Aaron, and were attacked by the plague, then Aaron took fire from the altar, and put it in a censer, and placed incense on it, and he ran into the midst of them; and the plague was stayed (Numbers 16:41, 46-48, and also in Revelation 8:3-5).

(References: Numbers 16:41-48)


[9] That "incense" and "frankincense" signify spiritual good, and "burning incense" worship acceptable because of that good, and therefore hearing and reception by the Lord, can be seen from the following.

In Isaiah:

A troop of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and of Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and frankincense; and they shall proclaim the praises of Jehovah (Isaiah 60:6).

Here the Lord's coming is treated of; the "troop of camels" and the "dromedaries of Midian and Ephah" signify the knowledges of truth and good in abundance; "all they from Sheba shall come" signifies from the knowledges of genuine truth and good (that "Sheba" signified such knowledges, see Arcana Coelestia 1171, 3240); "gold and frankincense," which they shall bring, signify worship from spiritual good that is from celestial good; "gold" signifying celestial good, and "frankincense" spiritual good. Because worship from these is signified it is said, "and they shall proclaim the praises of Jehovah;" "proclaiming the praises of Jehovah" signifying the proclamation of good tidings respecting the Lord, and worship of Him.

[10] In Matthew:

The wise men from the east opened their treasures, and offered gifts to the newborn Lord, gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).

"The wise men from the east" also signified those who are in the knowledges of truth and good; the worship of such from celestial good, spiritual good, and natural good is signified by "they offered gold, frankincense, and myrrh;" for "gold" signifies celestial good, "frankincense" spiritual good, and "myrrh" natural good. That these had such a signification was still known to many in the east, therefore they were also called "sons of the east," by whom in the Word those who are in the knowledges of truth and good are meant (see Arcana Coelestia 3249, 3762), for the knowledge of correspondences had remained among them; therefore that they might testify their joy of heart they offered such things as signified every good from first to last; and this is what was predicted in Isaiah, that they "were to come from Sheba, and bring gold and frankincense, and proclaim the praises of Jehovah" (of which just above).

[11] In Malachi:

From the rising of the sun even unto its going down My name shall be great among the nations; and in every place incense shall be offered unto My name, and a clean meal offering (Malachi 1:11).

"From the rising of the sun even unto its going down My name shall be great among the nations" signifies that the church and worship of the Lord shall be everywhere with those who are in good; "from the rising of the sun to its going down" signifying every place where there is good; "My name shall be great" signifying the acknowledgment and worship of the Lord; and "nations" signifying those who are in good; "incense shall be offered unto My name, and a clean meal offering" signifies the worship of the Lord from spiritual good, which is the good of charity towards the neighbor, and from celestial good, which is the good of love to the Lord; worship from spiritual good is signified by "incense offering," and from celestial good by "meal offering." (That a "meal offering" signifies that good, see Arcana Coelestia 4581, 10079, 1 10137)

[12] "Incense" and "meal-offering" have a like signification in David:

Give ear unto my voice when I call unto Thee. Let my prayers be accepted as incense before Thee; the lifting up of my hands as the evening meal-offering (Psalms 141:1, 2).

And in Isaiah:

Thou hast brought to Me the small cattle of thy burnt-offerings, and thou hast not honored Me with thy sacrifices. I have not made thee to serve by a meal-offering, nor wearied thee by frankincense (Isaiah 43:23).

As all worship of the Lord comes from spiritual good that is from celestial good, therefore the two, "meal-offering" and "frankincense" are mentioned separately in the letter, yet in the internal or spiritual sense they are to be understood conjointly, but the one from the other.

(References: Psalms 141:1-2)


[13] So in Jeremiah:

They shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the circuits of Jerusalem, bringing burnt-offering and sacrifice, and meal-offering and frankincense (Jeremiah 17:26).

Here "Judah" and "Jerusalem" do not mean Judah and Jerusalem, but the Lord's church, which is in the good of love and in the doctrine of charity therefrom; worship from these is signified by "burnt-offering and sacrifice," also by "meal-offering and frankincense."

[14] Because "meal-offering" signified the good of celestial love, and "frankincense" the good of spiritual love, upon the meal-offering of fine flour were put oil and frankincense, as appears in Moses:

When a soul would offer the offering of a meal-offering unto Jehovah, fine flour shall be his offering, upon which he shall pour oil, and shall put upon it frankincense; and the priest shall take out of it his handful of the fine flour and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof, and he shall burn it for a memorial upon the altar (Leviticus 2:1-2).

This meal-offering was instituted because "fine flour" signifies genuine truth (see Arcana Coelestia 9995); and since this truth is from good, namely, from celestial good, and from consequent spiritual good, "oil and frankincense" were put upon it; "oil" signifying the good of celestial love, and "frankincense" the good of spiritual love; in the internal sense, the one from the other. There were also other kinds of meal-offerings that were prepared with oil that had a like signification.

[15] In Ezekiel:

Thou hast taken the garments of thy embroidery, and hast covered the images of the male, with which thou didst commit whoredom; and didst set My oil and My incense before them (Ezekiel 16:18-19).

This is said of Jerusalem, which signifies the church in respect to doctrine, here doctrine altogether perverted. The "images of the male," which "she covered with the garments of her embroidery, and with which she committed whoredom," signify the falsities that they made, by perverse interpretations, to appear as truths, thus they signify falsified truths, "garments of embroidery" meaning the knowledges of truth from the Word, and "to commit whoredom" meaning to falsify; to set My oil and My incense before them" signifies to adulterate both the good of celestial love and the good of spiritual love; and these are adulterated when the Word is applied to the loves of self and of the world.

(References: Ezekiel 16:17-18)


[16] In Moses:

They shall teach Jacob Thy judgments, and Israel Thy law; they shall put incense in Thy nostrils, and a burnt-offering upon Thine altar (Deuteronomy 33:10).

This is the prophecy of Moses respecting Levi, by whom the priesthood is signified, and because the priesthood was representative of the Lord in respect to the good of love, both celestial and spiritual, therefore it is said, "they shall put incense in Thy nostrils, and a burnt-offering upon Thine altar;" "incense" signifying worship from spiritual good, and "burnt offering upon the altar" worship from celestial good; "in the nostrils" signifying to the perception.

[17] In David:

I will go into Thy house with burnt-offerings; I will pay my vows unto Thee. I will offer unto Thee burnt-offerings of fatlings, rams with incense (Psalms 66:13, 15).

"To offer burnt-offerings of fatlings" signifies worship from the good of celestial love; "to offer rams with incense" signifies worship from the good of spiritual love; "incense" and "ram" signifying that good.

[18] In Revelation:

Another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he might offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar that was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up out of the angel's hand before God. Afterwards the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar and cast it into the earth (Revelation 8:3-5).

What this means will be told in the explanation of these words in what follows; here it need merely be said that "incense" signifies worship from spiritual good, which is the good of charity toward the neighbor. Such worship is signified also by "the prayers of the saints;" it is therefore said "that there was given unto him much incense, that he might offer it with prayers of the saints;" and then that "the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God." That the "prayers of the saints" signify worship from spiritual good will be seen in the next paragraph, so also what is meant by worship from spiritual good, or from the good of charity.

[19] In Isaiah:

A people that provoke Me to anger continually before My faces; that sacrifice in gardens, and burn incense upon bricks (Isaiah 65:3).

Here "sacrificing" and "burning incense" have the contrary signification, namely, worship from the falsities of doctrine that are from self-intelligence; "gardens" signify intelligence, here self-intelligence, and "bricks" falsities therefrom; "to sacrifice" and "to burn incense" signify worship. (That the ancients held Divine worship in gardens and groves in accordance with the significations of the trees therein, but that this was forbidden among the Israelitish nation, lest they should frame to themselves a worship from the selfhood [ex proprio], see n. 2722, 4552)

[20] In Hosea:

They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under the oak, and the poplar, and the terebinth, because the shadow thereof is good, therefore your daughters commit whoredom, and your daughters-in-law commit adultery Hosea 4:13).

This describes worship from the love of self and from the love of the world, and from the falsities of doctrine therefrom; worship from the love of self is meant by "sacrificing upon the tops of the mountains;" worship from the love of the world, by "burning incense upon the hills;" and worship from the falsities of doctrine, by "sacrificing and burning incense under the oak, the poplar, and the terebinth;" the "top of the mountains" signifying celestial love, here the love of self; "hills" spiritual love, here, the love of the world; for the love of self is the contrary of celestial love, and the love of the world is the contrary of spiritual love; "the oak, the poplar, and the terebinth," signify the lowest goods of truth and truths of good of the natural man, here the evils of falsity and the falsities of its evil; "because the shadow thereof is good" signifies complacence; the falsifications of spiritual good therefrom are signified by "therefore your daughters commit whoredom," and the adulteration of celestial good by "your daughters-in-law commit adultery."

[21] In Jeremiah:

[According to] the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number [of the streets] of Jerusalem have ye set up altars, altars to burn incense unto Baal (Jeremiah 11:13, 17).

"Cities" here do not mean cities, nor "gods" gods, nor the "streets of Jerusalem" streets there; but "cities" signify the doctrinals of falsity; "gods" the falsities themselves; and the streets of Jerusalem the falsities of the doctrine of the church. "To set up altars, altars to burn incense unto Baal," signifies worship from the love of self and from the love of the world (as above). This nation did set up altars and burn incense to Baal; but as all things of their worship were representative, the things that were done according to the statutes were representative of things celestial and spiritual; consequently the things that were done contrary to the statutes were representative of things infernal; therefore by "altars set up to the gods," and by "incense offered to Baal," these contrary things are signified.

[22] In the same:

I will speak with them judgments upon all their evil, in that they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods, and have bowed themselves down to the works of their own hands (Jeremiah 1:16).

"To burn incense to other gods," and "to bow themselves down to the works of their own hands," signifies worship from the falsities that are from self-intelligence; "other gods" meaning falsities, and the "works of their own hands" what is from self-intelligence.

[23] The like is signified by:

Burning incense to gods (Jeremiah 11:12; 44:3, 5, 8, 15, 18);

Likewise burning incense to graven images (Hosea 11:2);

And burning incense to vanity (Jeremiah 18:15);

The like as above is signified by burning incense to Baal (Jeremiah 7:9; Hosea 2:13);

Likewise by burning incense to Melecheth, or the queen of the heavens (Jeremiah 44:17-19, 21, 25).

"Melecheth of the heavens" signifies falsities in the whole complex.

[24] Moreover, "burning incense" signifies those things of worship that are perceived as grateful, and "incense" signifies spiritual good, because all things that were instituted in the Israelitish nation were representative of things celestial and spiritual; for the church with them was not as the church at this day, which is internal, but it was external; and the externals represented and thus signified the internal things of the church, such as were disclosed by the Lord in the Word of the New Testament; for this reason their church was called a representative church. The externals of that church consisted of such things in the world of nature as corresponded to the affections of good and truth in the spiritual world; consequently when those who were of that church were in externals in respect to worship, those who were in the spiritual world, that is, in heaven, were in the internals, and conjoined themselves with those who were in externals; it was in this way that heaven at that time made one with the men on the earth.

[25] From this it can be seen why there was a table for the bread in the tent of meeting, and why there was a lampstand with lamps, and an altar for incense. For "bread" represented and thence signified the good of love proceeding from the Lord, or celestial good; the "lampstand with lamps" represented and thence signified spiritual good and truth; and "incense" represented and thence signified worship; and because all Divine worship that is perceived as grateful is from spiritual good, therefore that good was signified by "incense." In order that this gratification might be represented the incense was made from fragrant spices, and this also from correspondence; for fragrant odors correspond to the pleasantnesses and delights that are in the thoughts and perceptions from the joy of spiritual love. For this reason incense corresponded to such things as are received as grateful by the Lord and perceived as grateful by angels. This gratification is solely from spiritual good, or from the good of charity towards the neighbor; for this good is celestial good, which is the good of love to the Lord in effect; for celestial good, which is the good of love to the Lord, is brought into effect solely through spiritual good, which is the good of charity toward the neighbor; consequently to be in this good and to exercise it is to love and worship the Lord. (What charity toward the neighbor is, and what it is to exercise it, see in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem 84-107.)

[26] As the "oil" by which anointings were made signified celestial good or the good of love to the Lord, and "incense" signified spiritual good, or the good of charity towards the neighbor, and as the latter is from the former (as was said above), therefore in Exodus (chapter 30) the preparation of the anointing oil is first treated of, and immediately afterwards the preparation of the incense; the preparation of the anointing oil from verse 23 to 33, and the preparation of the incense from verse 34 to 38. And as the incense-offering is here treated of I will quote what is there commanded regarding the preparation of incense, namely:

Take unto thee fragrant spices, stacte, onycha, and galbanum; fragrant spices and pure frankincense, like quantity with like quantity shall it be. And thou shalt make it an incense, a perfume the work of the perfumer, salted, pure, holy; and thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the Testimony of the Tent of meeting, where I will meet thee; it shall be unto you the holy of holies. And the incense that thou makest ye shall not make in its quality for yourselves; it shall be unto thee holy to Jehovah. The man who shall make like unto it to smell thereof shall be cut off from his peoples (Exodus 30:34-38).

(But what these particulars signify, see Arcana Coelestia 10289-10310, where they are explained consecutively.) Here it may be said merely that frankincense was the primary ingredient, and the other three were added for the sake of their odor; therefore it is said of the frankincense, that "a like quantity with a like quantity it shall be," or as much of one as of the other; in like manner as with the anointing oil, in which the oil of the olive was the primary ingredient, and the other things in it were significative (Exodus 30:23-33). From this it is clear why frankincense has the same signification as incense when compounded, namely spiritual good.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 10289; Exodus 30:1, 30:22-33)


[27] As the fragrances pertaining to odor correspond to spiritual pleasantnesses, or to the pleasantnesses arising from spiritual good, so also what is received by the Lord as most grateful is called an:

Odor of rest (Exodus 29:18, 25, 41; Leviticus 1:9, 13, 17; 2:2, 9, 12; 3:5, Leviticus 4:31; 6:15, 21; 8:28; 23:8, 13, 18; Numbers 15:3; 28:6, 8, 13; 29:2, 6, 8, 13, 36).

In Ezekiel:

By the odor of rest I will be pleased with you (Ezekiel 20:41).

In Moses:

If ye will not walk in My precepts, but will go contrary to Me, I will not smell the odor of your rest (Leviticus 26:27, 31).

And in Hosea:

His branches shall spread, and he shall be as the honor of the olive, and his odor as that of Lebanon (Hosea 14:6).

This is said of Israel; "the honor of the olive" signifies celestial good, and "the odor of Lebanon" spiritual good, from its gratefulness. (That "honor" is predicated of celestial good, see above, n. 288; that the "olive" also signifies that good, see Arcana Coelestia 9277, 10261; that "odor" signifies what is perceived as grateful according to the quality of love and faith, n. 1514-1519, 3577, 4624-4634, 4748, 5621, 10292; that the "odor of rest" signifies the perceptive of peace, n. 925, 10054; what this is see in the work on Heaven and Hell 284-290.)

(References: Ezekiel 16:17-18; Jeremiah 11:12-13; Leviticus 3:16, 6:8, 6:14; Numbers 16:1-35, 16:41-48; Revelation 5:8; The Apocalypse Explained 288)

  
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