Joy In The Coming Of Our Lord

Joy In The Coming Of Our Lord
A Sermon by Rev. David C. Roth

Image result for lords advent

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen
His star in the east and have come to worship Him …. And when they
saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Matthew 2:2,10).
How often have we been in the same position as the wise men, or
maybe the same situation as the shepherds? We are in a position
similar to theirs when we are told of the Lord and the message of His
Word. As He did for the wise men and the shepherds, the Lord has
made Himself known to each of us in different ways, and now it is up to
us to respond. Both the shepherds and the wise men were told in
different ways about the coming of the Lord and then given guidance to
that special place where the Lord chose to be born. Although both were
present to see the newborn Savior, they received the message of the
Lord’s birth in different ways.

Most likely each of us has a favorite story in relation to the Lord’s birth.
We may even ask ourselves whether it was the wise men or the
shepherds who responded in a more favorable way to the
announcement of the Lord’s advent. But this question is not really very
important when we realize that the essential observation is the one that
points to the fact that both the wise men and the shepherds did
respond. They both heeded the Lord’s call, but in different ways, each
according to his own state – different states, yet states which were
acceptable to the Lord. How can we then apply the responses of the
wise men and shepherds to our own lives on this Christmas day? As we
examine the stories of the shepherds and the wise men, the spiritual
sense shows us clearly of their application to our lives.

The first thing, however, that we must understand is the importance of
the Lord’s birth. Without His coming we could not be in freedom to be
regenerated by Him. His coming has redeemed mankind; that is, He put
the hells back where they belonged, put the heavens in order so that
they could be safe from the attack of the hells, and began a new church
where people could love the Lord and their neighbors (see TCR 86). By
His birth and fulfilled life here on earth the Lord is now present with us
fully and powerfully in His Word; we are not left alone. It was this
message involving all this wonderful work to be done by the Lord which
the shepherds were told of, and which the wise men sought to see
fulfilled. As the angel of the Lord proclaimed to the shepherds, “Fear
not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all
people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is
Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11). The message was clearly one to pay
attention to, one to be happy about. A Savior had come, of whose
kingdom there would be no end.

When we consider the call of the shepherds we see a unique response.
The shepherds at this time of the year lived out in the fields with their
sheep day and night, always keeping a watchful eye on their tender
flocks. Perhaps we envision it being cold and dark, with the shepherds
staying close to keep themselves warm. This is illustrative of the type of
world into which the Lord was born – cold from the lack of charity and
love, and dark because of the false understanding in which the world
had engulfed its minds. Yet even in all this cold and darkness there
were a few who possessed an innocence and a willingness to be led
and taught by the Word. We can see this in the story of the shepherds.
A shepherd represents one who teaches the truths and goods of faith. A
good shepherd, that is, one that guards and protects his flock, shows us
a picture of someone who is learning, protecting and storing up goods
and truths. This is a picture of a basically good person, yet one who
believes that life is his own, and that most power is from himself. He has
been working hard to learn the truths of the Lord’s Word; however, he
remains in a state of darkness as to how it all applies to his life, and how
it leads him closer to the Lord and away from self. But with this learning
of truth and innocent willingness the Lord is able to come to us and be
born in our hearts.

The first thing which the appearing angel said to the shepherds was,
“Fear not.” This represents a renewal of life, meaning that the Lord will
create a new heart within us, a heart that acknowledges the Lord as our
Savior and not ourselves. This actually can be a real cause for fear. We
read, “For all who come suddenly from self-life into any spiritual life are
at first afraid, but their life is renewed by the Lord” (AC 80). It can be a
difficult and scary thing to give our life over to the care of the Lord when
we feel so strongly that life is our own and that we have the power
ourselves to conquer evil. When the Lord draws near, the result is
temptation, and if we are good we will fear for the loss of good and truth.
His nearer presence makes it feel as if we are losing what good and
truth we have. But it is when we do follow the Lord, when we listen to
the angel’s good tidings, that He can truly care for us. The manger in
which the shepherds found the Lord represents spiritual nourishment. It
is here in the presence of the Lord that we are nourished and instructed.
The Lord does not lead us to Himself and then starve us; He will fill us
to overflowing. The Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes means first
truths, truths of innocence from the Lord’s Divine Love. When we come
to the Lord He nourishes and instructs us in those things which will
make us ready for His kingdom, a kingdom of innocence, love, and use.
After seeing the Babe, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising
God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them”
(Luke 2:20). This response by the shepherds signifies a true confession
and worship, which comes when we acknowledge in our hearts that
there is nothing of good in ourselves, and that we can do nothing of
ourselves – and, on the other hand, that all good is from the Lord, and
that the Lord can do all things (see AC 1210). The Heavenly Doctrines
say further of this response, “When man is in this acknowledgment he
puts aside what is his own, which belongs to the love of self, and opens
all things of his mind, and thus gives room for the Divine to flow in with
good and with power” (AC 1210). The shepherds heard the Lord’s call
and followed it. We can be like the shepherds ourselves when we make
the same sort of acknowledgment regarding the power of the Lord. He
will call us in His Word, but if we are looking to ourselves for strength we
will not hear Him. We may celebrate the Lord’s advent, but not with the
same conviction for the Lord as we would if we humbled ourselves and
gave glory to the King of Glory.

From this beautiful picture of innocence as seen in the story of the
shepherds we now turn to a different scenario: one of wisdom and
perseverance – the story of the wise men. The wise men seemed to
have a special quality about them. They knew about the advent of the
Lord because they had a knowledge of the Word and its prophecies. We
read concerning them, “The knowledge of correspondences survived
among a number of the Orientals, even until the Lord’s Advent, as is
evident from the wise men of the east who came to the Lord at His birth”
(SS 23), “and that they knew of His Advent by a star which appeared to
them in the east” (AC 10177).

It is interesting to think of the fact that those who were of the Jewish
faith who had the Old Testament Word and who should have known that
the Lord was to be born had no idea of it. When the wise men came and
asked Herod, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” he
had no answer but called the chief priests and scribes together to help.
We can imagine that perhaps Herod was a bit embarrassed that he, the
king, did not know this, as well as being jealous of this newborn King.
The Word says that ” … he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. ”
Whatever the nature of the response, again it was quite indicative of the
state of the Jewish Church at the time. Not only was their knowledge of
the Word lacking and false but many, like Herod, had an all-out hatred
for the Lord. This is plainly shown in Herod’s plot to kill the infant Lord, a
plot which resulted in the slaying of thousands of innocent children in
Bethlehem.

The Jews at this time, it seems, were not looking for the Lord. And when
they did find out that He had come, there was no room in their hearts
nor their inns to greet Him. Yet, as with the shepherds, we see in the
story of the wise men others who were ready for the Lord. But we
observe a difference in their response to the Lord’s coming, the main
difference being that the wise men were actively seeking out the Lord.
They had seen His star in the east and had come to worship Him. They
traveled a long distance to see the star that had come out of Jacob, the
Scepter that had risen out of Israel, He who was to be born King of the
Jews.

In the spiritual sense, the east represents love, and the star that went
before them signifies knowledge from heaven (see AC 3762, SS 23).
The wise men traveling eastward to the land of the east was
representative of those who in their life are moving toward the good of
faith. This, the Writings teach, is nothing else than charity toward the
neighbor, or a life according to the Lord’s commandments (see AC
3249). In this spiritual picture we can see that it is the knowledges of
good and truth found in the Lord’s Word, represented by the star, which
guide us to a life of charity or love, that is, which guide us to the Lord
Himself. This paints a beautiful picture for each of us. We see that it is
through the learning of the Lord’s truths and commands that we can be
led to Him.

Still, the most beautiful aspect of the wise men’s response to the Lord’s
Advent is seen when they departed from Herod for Bethlehem and the
star reappeared before them. “And behold the star which they had seen
in the east went before them, til it came and stood over where the young
Child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding
great joy.” Exceeding great joy! What kind of a feeling did they have? It
must have been an overwhelming feeling of excitement and internal
peace over having embarked upon the last leg of the journey to their
Savior, the star’s reappearing to assure them that the Lord was with
them as they continued their trek. Can we ever have such feelings of
great joy in our religious life? We certainly can, and we must! Talking to
a person who has recently become aware of the wisdom and love found
in the Heavenly Doctrines can certainly emanate exceeding great joy.
Or a newly engaged or married couple show it to a certain degree.
Perhaps we can even relate it to the expression a young child shows on
Christmas morning. However, if we are raised in the New Church, do we
lose this excitement, or never let it show? If we do, how can we regain
this feeling or bring it out so that others can share it? One answer is to
be like the wise men, to seek out the Lord in His Word and then come to
Him when we see the star, that is, the knowledges from heaven
contained in the Word. We may not find the Lord right away. Even the
wise men thought they would find the Lord in Jerusalem, but He wasn’t
there. They could have given up, but they asked others where He could
be found. It is essential to talk to others about our beliefs and our quest
for the Lord. They can add to our understanding and love for the Lord,
and perhaps our picture then becomes clearer for us, which can
eventually lead us to Him. Notice, the star showed itself again until it
came and stood over where the young Child was. It led the wise men
right to the Lord. We need the truths and goods represented by the star
to lead us, and to keep leading us throughout life.

It is important to realize that truth will lead us to the Lord and make us
happy, but the real joy for us in our spiritual lives will be when we come
to the Lord offering gifts to Him, as the wise men did. These gifts of
gold, frankincense, and myrrh were more than just earthly treasures.
They represented testifications of the heart or will, the heart found in a
person that is truly thankful for all that the Lord has done for him, and
shows it by following His Word. These gifts represented things pleasing
to God, because their origin is in love and faith toward Him – the love
represented by gold, and our faith by the frankincense, and by myrrh is
represented our love and faith grounded in things external, which is a
life in obedience and love to the Lord and to our neighbor. These are
the gifts which the Lord is asking us to bear on Christmas day and
beyond. But more importantly to know, they are the gifts which He gives
us and wills to give each of us when we respond to His coming. So on
this Christmas day let us ask ourselves the following question with the
earnest desire to find the answer: “Where is He who has been born King
of the Jews?” Let us then search diligently for His star in the east and
come to worship Him, that is, live a life of charity and faith in Him,
because it is in this kind of a life where we too can share the vision of
the shepherds and the excitement of the wise men. “Where is He who
has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east
and have come to worship Him … And when they saw the star, they
rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Amen.
Lessons: Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12; AE 661

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“The peace that reigns in heaven is like spring on earth, or like the dawn.”

Arcana Coelestia 5662

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