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
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

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

Apocalypse Revealed 277, 503, 526, 913

Sacred Scripture 23

True Christian Religion 205


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

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

Word/Phrase Explanations

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...

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.

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.

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...

wise
'The learned,' or 'wise,' who 'shall shine as the stars,' are people who are in good.

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...

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...

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...

mother
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,...

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...

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
In John 14:6, 'the way is doctrine,' 'the truth' is every thing pertaining to doctrine, and 'the life' is the essential good which is the...

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
Generally speaking things that are seen as lower physically in the Bible represent things that are lower or more external spiritually. In some cases this...

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
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...

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

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

 

Arcana Coelestia #3305

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

Study this Passage

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3305. 'And he called his name Jacob' means the doctrine of natural truth. This is clear from the meaning of 'calling the name' or calling by name as the essential nature, dealt with just above in 3302. The essential nature represented by 'Jacob' is the doctrine of natural truth, as becomes clear from the representation of Esau as good constituting the life of natural truth, 3300, and from very many places in the Word where he is mentioned. There are two elements which constitute the natural, as there are two which constitute the rational, and indeed which constitute the whole person - the first being that of life, the second that of doctrine. The element of life belongs to the will, that of doctrine to the understanding. The former is called good, but the latter truth. It is that good which is represented by Esau, but this truth by Jacob; or what amounts to the same, it is good constituting the life of natural truth that is represented by Esau, and the doctrine of natural truth that is represented by Jacob. Whether you speak of the good constituting the life of natural truth and of the doctrine of natural truth, or of those in whom such doctrine and life are present, it amounts to the same, for the good constituting the life and the doctrine of truth cannot exist apart from their subject. Without their subject they are mere abstractions, yet they nevertheless have regard to the person in whom they exist. Consequently Jacob here means people who possess the doctrine of natural truth.

(References: Psalms 8:3-4, 76:5-6, Psalms 89:17-18)


[2] Those who confine themselves to the sense of the letter suppose that in the Word Jacob is used to mean every one of those people descended from Jacob, and for that reason they apply to those people everything that has been stated about Jacob either as history or as prophecy. But the Word is Divine in that first and foremost every single thing within it has regard not just to one particular nation or people but to the whole human race, namely to everyone present, past, and future. More than that, it has reference to the Lord's kingdom in heaven; and in the highest sense to the Lord Himself. This is what makes it a Divine Word. If it were concerned with merely one particular nation it would be human only and would have nothing more of the Divine within it than the existence among that nation of holy worship. The fact that such worship did not exist among the people called 'Jacob' may be known to anyone. For this reason also it is evident that 'Jacob' is not used in the Word to mean Jacob, nor 'Israel' to mean Israel - for almost everywhere in prophetical parts, when Jacob is referred to, Israel is mentioned too. And no one can know what is meant specifically by the first or what by the second except from that sense which lies more deeply and conceals the arcana of heaven within itself.

[3] In the internal sense therefore 'Jacob' means the doctrine of natural truth, or what amounts to the same, people who possess that doctrine, no matter what nation they belong to; and in the highest sense 'Jacob' is used to mean the Lord, as becomes clear from the following places: In Luke,

The angel said to Mary, You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, so that He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. Luke 1:31-33.

Everyone recognizes that here 'the house of Jacob' was not used to mean the Jewish nation or people, for the Lord's kingdom included not merely that people but all throughout the world who have faith in Him, and from faith have charity. From this it is clear that when the angel used the name Jacob he did not mean the people of Jacob. Nor consequently are those people meant anywhere else. Nor are the references to the seed of Jacob, the sons of Jacob, the land of Jacob, the inheritance of Jacob, the king of Jacob, and the God of Jacob, which occur so many times in the Old Testament Word, meant literally.

(References: Luke 1:30-33)


[4] It is similar with the name Israel, as in Matthew,

The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Rise, take the Boy and His mother, and flee into Egypt, and be there until I tell you. He rose and took the Boy and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt, so that what had been said by the prophet might be fulfilled, when he said, Out of Egypt have I called My Son. Matthew 2:13-15.

In the prophet this promise is stated as follows,

When Israel was a boy I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. Hosea 11:1.

Here it is quite evident that 'Israel' is the Lord. From the sense of the letter however nothing more may be known beyond the fact that 'the boy Israel' means the immediate descendants of Jacob who came into Egypt and at a later time were summoned from there. It is similar in other places where the names Jacob and Israel occur, although it is not apparent from the sense of the letter, as in Isaiah,

Hear, O Jacob my servant, and Israel whom I have chosen, Thus said Jehovah who made you and formed you from the womb, who helps you, Fear not, O my servant Jacob, and Jeshurun whom I have chosen, for I will pour out waters upon thirsty land, and rivers upon the dry. I will pour out My spirit upon your seed, and My blessing upon your sons. This one will say, I am Jehovah's, and another will call himself by the name of Jacob, and he will write with his hand, Jehovah's, and surname himself by the name of Israel. Isaiah 44:1-3, 5.

Here 'Jacob' and 'Israel' plainly stand for the Lord, and 'the seed' and 'the sons of Jacob' for those having faith in Him.

(References: Matthew 2:13, 2:15)


[5] In the prophecy concerning Israel's sons, in Moses,

Joseph will sit in the strength of his bow, and the arms of his hands will be made strong by the hands of the mighty Jacob; from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel. Genesis 49:24.

Here also 'the mighty Jacob' and 'the Stone of Israel' plainly stand for the Lord. In Isaiah,

My glory will I not give to another. Hearken to Me, O Jacob, and O Israel whom I called: I am the same; I am the first; I am also the last. Isaiah 48:11-12.

Here again 'Jacob' and 'Israel' are the Lord. In Ezekiel,

I will take the stick of Joseph which is in the hand of Ephraim and of the tribes of Israel his companions, and I will add them to it, to the stick of Judah, and make them into one stick, that they may be one in My hand. I will take the children of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and will gather them from all around and bring them on to their own land. And I will make them into one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king to them all, and they will no longer be two nations, nor will they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. At that time they will dwell in the land which I gave to Jacob my servant, in which your fathers dwelt. They will dwell in it, they, and their sons, and their sons' sons even for ever. David My servant will be their prince for ever. I will make with them a covenant of peace; it will be an eternal covenant with them. I will bless 1 them, and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst for evermore. Thus will My dwelling-place be with them, and I will be their God. and they will be My people, so that the nations may know that I Jehovah sanctify Israel, to be My sanctuary in their midst for evermore. Ezekiel 37:19, 21-22, 24-28.

Here again it is quite clear that 'Joseph', 'Ephraim', 'Judah', 'Israel', 'Jacob', and 'David' are not used to mean those persons, but in the highest sense Divine spiritual things within the Lord and which exist in the Lord's kingdom and in His Church. Anyone may know that David will not be, as is said, their king and prince for ever, but that 'David' is used to mean the Lord, 1888. Anyone may also know that Israel will not be gathered together from where they have been scattered, or that they will be sanctified, or, as is said, that the sanctuary will be set in their midst, but that, as is well known, 'Israel' in the representative sense means all those who have faith.

[6] In Micah,

I will surely gather Jacob, all of you, I will surely assemble the remnant of Israel; I will put them together, like the sheep of Bozrah. Micah 2:12.

Here the meaning is similar. In Isaiah,

Those who are to come Jacob will cause to take root. Israel will blossom and flower, and the face of the earth will be filled with produce. Isaiah 27:6.

Here also the meaning is similar. In the same prophet,

Thus said Jehovah, who redeemed Abraham, to the house of Jacob, Jacob will no more be ashamed, and no more will his face grow pale. For when he sees his male children, the work of My hands, in his midst they will sanctify My name, and they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and will fear the God of Israel. And those who err in spirit will know understanding. Isaiah 29:22-24.

In the same prophet,

Jehovah said to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him, and I will ungird the loins of kings, to open doors before him, and gates may not be closed: I will go before you and make straight the crooked places; I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut asunder the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of concealed places, and the secret wealth of hoarded objects, that you may know that it is I, Jehovah, who called you by your name, the God of Israel. For the sake of My servant Jacob, and of Israel My chosen, I have called you by your name. I have surnamed you when you did not know Me. Isaiah 45:1-4.

This also clearly refers to the Lord. In Micah,

In the latter days the mountain of the house of Jehovah will be established at the head of the mountains. Many nations will come and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways, and we will go in His paths. For out of Zion will go forth teaching, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. Micah 4:1-2.

In David,

Jehovah loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling-places of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken in you, O city of God. Psalms 87:1-3.

In Jeremiah,

They will serve Jehovah their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. And do not fear, O My servant Jacob, and do not be dismayed, O Israel, for behold, I am saving you from afar. Jeremiah 30:9-10.

In Isaiah,

Listen to Me, O islands, and hearken, O peoples from afar. Jehovah called me from the womb, from my mother's body 2 He remembered my name. And He said to me, You are My servant Israel in whom I will be rendered glorious. Isaiah 49:1, 3.

In the same prophet,

Then will you take delight in Jehovah and I will convey you over the high places of the earth, and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob. Isaiah 58:14.

In the same prophet,

I will bring forth seed from Jacob, and from Judah the heir of My mountain, so mat My chosen ones may possess it, and My servants may dwell there. Isaiah 65:9.

(References: Psalms 87:2-3)


[7] In all these places 'Jacob' and 'Israel' are used in the highest sense to mean the Lord, and in the representative sense the Lord's spiritual kingdom, and the Church which is the Church by virtue of the doctrine of truth and the life of good - 'Jacob' meaning those who are in the external aspects of that Church, and 'Israel' those who are in the internal. These and very many other places show that nowhere is 'Jacob' used to mean Jacob, or 'Israel' to mean Israel, any more than when the names 'Isaac' and 'Abraham' are used Isaac or Abraham is meant, as in Matthew,

Many will come from the east and from the west and will recline with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 8:11.

In Luke,

You will see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God. Luke 13:28.

And in the same gospel,

Lazarus was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. Luke 16:22.

For in heaven angels have no knowledge at all of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Angels there perceive nothing else from those words when read by man than the Lord as regards the Divine and the Divine Human. When man reads about reclining with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob they perceive nothing else than being with the Lord; and when about being in Abraham's bosom nothing else than resting in the Lord. Such wording has been used however because mankind at that time was so far removed from things of an internal nature that it neither knew nor wished to know anything other than this, that everything in the Word was to be taken literally. And when the Lord spoke to them in that literal manner He did so in order that they might receive faith, and also at the same time in order that the internal sense might be contained within what He said, by means of which mankind was joined to Himself. This being so one may see what is meant in the Old Testament Word by 'the God of Jacob' and by 'the Holy One of Israel', namely the Lord Himself. For places where 'the God of Jacob' means the Lord, see 2 Samuel 23:1; Isaiah 2:3; 41:21; Micah 4:2; Psalms 20:1; 46:7; 75:9; 76:6; 81:1, 4; 84:8; 94:7; 114:7; 132:2; 146:5; and for places where 'the Holy One of Israel' means the Lord, Isaiah 1:4; 5:19, 24; 10:20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19; 30:11-12, 15; 31:1; 37:23; 41:14, 16, 20; 43:3, 14; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7; 54:5; 55:5; 60:9, 14; Jeremiah 50:29; Ezekiel 39:7; Psalms 71:22; 78:41; 89:18.

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Footnotes:

1. literally, give

2. literally, viscera

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(References: Genesis 25:26; Luke 16:20)

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Arcana Coelestia 3311, 3314, 3316, 3319, 3322, 3324, 3325, 3332, 3412, 3439, 3509, 3525, 3527, 3546, 3654, 3659, 3703, 3704, 3708, 3880, 3969, 4290, 4428, 4520, 4538, 4667, 5348, 5401, 5595, 5603, 5611, 5632, 5663, 5965, 6001, 6012, 6019, 6089, ...


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