The Word Made Flesh

The Word Made Flesh
A Sermon by Rev Brian W. Keith

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“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we
beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full
of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Night; a time of quiet when the bustle of the day dies down; a
time of weariness when we make ready for a restful sleep; also a time
of darkness and cold; our vision is limited and we seek the warmth of
fires and homes.

Nighttime plays a prominent role in the birth of the Lord. It was
at night in a dream that the angel appeared to Joseph giving him
reasons to marry Mary. Later at night he warned him of the danger of
Herod, and eventually informed him that it was time to return to the
land of Israel. It was in the night that the Lord was born and the
shepherds found their way to the manger. And it was in the night that
the wise men saw the star in the east, and then had the star lead
them from Jerusalem to Bethlehem where it stood over the house
where the young Child lay.

The nighttime scenes surrounding the birth and early years of
the Lord’s life depict the shroud that had descended upon the world.
Their God, Jehovah, had not been seen nor heard from in hundreds
of years. They were lost and rudderless without Him. Other than
maintaining the ancient rituals, they had little sense of who He was
and how they were to live. Hearts were growing colder from the
confusion and distortion of everything good.

Even with the few descendants of the ancient churches, some
of whose knowledge resided with the wise men, there were but scant
glimmers of light. Perhaps those wise men alone among the ancients
saw the star. Certainly its light was not overpowering. So even with
the ancients there was but little understanding of who the Lord is.
What minimal truth remained was heavily shaded because all they
had ever seen of the Lord was a representative not the Divine in its
glory (see Doctrine Concerning the Sacred Scripture 99).

But our images and memories of the birth of the Lord are not
focused upon the darkened states. Rather we remember the
multitude of heavenly hosts shining upon the shepherds, the star
guiding the wise men, and the light of day in which Simeon lifted up
the infant Lord, blessed God, and Anna proclaimed His glory to all.
For the Lord’s coming is a coming with light and with life. “And the
Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory,
the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and
truth.”

One of the wonders of Christmas is the fact that the Lord is
born with light in the midst of confused and dark states of life. When
we see little but gloom and hopelessness, He comes to us. He holds
us in His hands, nourishing an inner sense of hope that we might
endure and overcome. Then His full presence with us is in the light of
the morning, enabling us to recognize who He is and how we might
walk in His ways. This is why the morning with its light and warmth
corresponds to the Lord’s coming. (see Arcana Coelestia 22, 4240e;
Doctrine Concerning the Sacred Scripture 99)

For the Lord came as the light of the world. This is His glory.
We can see it shining upon us in the truth His advent brought. For
until the Lord took on a physical form as a tender infant, all the earlier
concepts of Him were vague at best. (see Doctrine Concerning the
Sacred Scripture 99)

All of the true ideas that had existed with the ancients about
marriage, life continuing past the veil of this world, and how His
providence guides us were only misty images of what they might be.
For all truth had been filtered through the heavens. Dependent upon
the finite grasp of the angels, the glory of the Lord had shone dimmer
and dimmer into this world, until at last the vision of Him was nearly
lost.

By His birth the Lord acquired a natural degree of life. As He
put it on and gradually made it Divine, the warmth of His love and the
light of His wisdom became immediately present with all. This is the
light of the new day the Lord’s coming heralded for mankind, a light
shining in the darkness, leading to the brilliance of day. We can
sense this when we reflect upon our awakening states not those
mornings which come after too little sleep, or when we are rudely
awakened by alarms and the bustle of hurriedly preparing to rush off
to work. But we feel it in the quiet mornings when we awake
refreshed and revived when we listen to the singing of the birds and
know the dazzling sunlight portends the warming of the earth. The
light has a special quality then. With clarity we see beauty in even the
simplest things around us. And we can sense the closeness of
heaven, the closeness of the Lord’s Advent as our spirits are lifted up
to the new day. (see Arcana Coelestia 7844:2)

As the Word made flesh, the glory of the Lord can bring us a
peacefulness unlike any other. Not a peace like the quiet of evening
when we are preparing to rest. Rather it is a peace of contentment
and confidence. As the Heavenly Doctrines note, this peace is “the
very Divine truth in heaven from the Lord which universally affects all
who are there and makes heaven to be heaven; for peace has in it
confidence in the Lord, that He directs all things and provides all
things, and that He leads to a good end. When a person is in this
state, he is in peace, for he then fears nothing, and no worry about
things to come disturbs him.” (Arcana Coelestia 8455) The glory of
the Lord’s Word shines upon us when we have such assurance that
He is in charge, carefully guiding every one of our steps.

This is the state of the angels. Their unpleasant memories of
this earth have been set aside. They have no desire to leap into the
future. Rather they fully enjoy the present, sensing all the goodness
that the Lord is giving them now. For they trust in Him, knowing that
He is leading and caring for them no matter what happens.

We may taste some of this angelic peace as we celebrate the
Lord’s advent or awaken in the morning. But we enter into it more and
more as we set aside the things of this world: worry about the future,
too great a focus on natural toys and conveniences, our selfish drives
and desires. To the extent that we can enjoy earthly delights without
making them all important, that we can serve others without always
thinking about what we will get out of it, so far peace can enter our
lives. It is then that we become convinced that the Lord’s light is the
true light and most of the problems and troubles we experience can
fall away. It is then that we can glimpse the Lord and experience His
peace, His Advent into our lives.

In one sense there is nothing startlingly new or different about
this idea. Indeed, it is so simple, so fundamental, that it hardly needs
to be said. So we are affected by the Word made flesh as the Divine
flows into some of the simple truths we already know. This is one of
the reasons the Lord was born on earth that the Divine goodness
might be joined with our common sense and simple ideas of Him that
we have. (see Arcana Coelestia 2554)

The Lord’s birth itself did not reveal any radical new information
that had not been available before. In fact there would be no real
instruction until thirty years later when the Lord began His public
ministry. But His birth signaled a beginning of salvation for all
because His presence, His love for us all, was proclaimed by His
coming down among us, filling us with His good.

For us now, the Christmas story reveals His glory, the brilliance
of His Divine Human in which we may know and love Him. The Divine
as it is in Itself is far beyond our comprehension and affection, even
as it was for the ancients. So the Lord was born that we might see
His nature and have it shed light on our lives, giving us the
confidence and trust that He is always with us, always leading us in
paths of peace.

The Lord then becomes flesh and dwells among us when even
our limited, simple ideas of truth can be filled with His presence,
showing us something of His love. For the Lord’s coming into our life
is not simply to make us feel good. Yes, the Lord would have us
experience states of happiness and joy regularly, and eventually in
heaven constantly. While He may be born in our states of darkness,
His full Advent is to us in light the truth of His Word which can fill our
minds. Every time we recognize a concept as Divine, as coming from
Him and leading our minds back to His love and mercy, His advent
has occurred. Then the Word is made flesh, living, for us. We are
touched by it, we are enlightened by it, and we are strengthened by it.
(see Arcana Coelestia 8792)

This is our sight of the Lord, His birth among us. It brings us
light, and it will bring us warmth. We can embrace this light, this new
vision of the Divine, and use it to recognize and follow His teachings.
(see True Christian Religion 774) Then the truth of peace will be ours.
So let this Christmas day affect us with the joys of morning. As
its light brings a new brightness to our day, as its warmth stirs a
renewed heat in our lives, let us feel the Lord’s closeness to us. His
birth on earth was the taking on of a natural form of life that we might
know Him, see Him, and love Him. As we put off an excessive focus
on the things of this world and upon our concerns, He can come
closer to us, bringing us the peace of dawn-a peace that has within it
complete confidence in His truth, in His guidance, a complete
confidence that a heaven shall be made from this human race.
This was the reason for His coming to touch our hearts and
enlighten our minds, that He might become the Word made flesh for
us eternally. Let us behold His glory, full of grace and truth.
Amen.
Lessons: Luke 2:1-7; John 1:1-18; Arcana Coelestia 8455

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DAILY INSPIRATION

“Knowing a lot makes no difference if we do not live by what we know.”

Arcana Coelestia 1100

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Man Who is Taught from the Word is Taught by the Lord Alone

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeSelection from Divine Providence ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

The Lord is the Word, and that all doctrine of the church must be drawn from the Word. Since, then, the Lord is the Word, it follows that the man who is taught from the Word is taught by the Lord alone. But as this is not easily comprehended, it shall be illustrated in the following order:

(1) The Lord is the Word because the Word is from Him and treats of Him.

(2) Also because it is the Divine truth of the Divine good.

(3) Thus to be taught from the Word is to be taught from the Lord.

(4) That this is done mediately through preaching does not take away the immediateness.

First: The Lord is the Word because the Word is from Him and treats of Him. That the Word is from the Lord is denied by no one in the church. That the Word treats of the Lord alone is not denied, indeed, but neither is it known. This has been set forth in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Lord (n. 1-7, 37-44); also in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Sacred Scripture (n. 62-69, 80-90, 98-100).

Since, then, the Word is both from the Lord alone and treats of the Lord alone, it follows that when man is taught from the Word he is taught from the Lord, since the Word is the Divine; and who except the essential Divine, from whom the Word is and of whom it treats, can communicate the Divine, and plant it in the heart? When, therefore, the Lord speaks of His conjunction with the disciples He says:-

That they should abide in Him, and His words in them (John xv. 7). That His words are spirit and life (John 6:63).

And that He makes His abode with those who keep His words (John xiv. 20-24).

To think from the Lord, therefore, is to think from the Word, seemingly through the Word. [That all things of the Word have communication with heaven has been shown in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Sacred Scripture, from beginning to end.] And since the Lord is heaven, this means that all things of the Word have communication with the Lord Himself. It is true that the angels of heaven have communication; but this, too, is from the Lord.

Secondly: The Lord is the Word, because it is the Divine truth of the Divine good. That the Lord is the Word He teaches in John in these words:-

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word; and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:1,14).

As heretofore this has been understood to mean only that God taught men through the Word, it has been explained as a hyperbolical expression, not meaning that the Lord is the Word itself; and for the reason that it was unknown that by “the Word” the Divine truth of the Divine good is meant, or, what is the same, the Divine wisdom of the Divine love. That these are the Lord Himself is shown in Part First of the work on The Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom; and that these are the Word is shown in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Sacred Scripture (n. 1-86).

How the Lord is the Divine truth of the Divine good shall also be briefly told.

Every man is a man not from his face and body but from the good of his love and from the truths of his wisdom; and because it is from these that a man is a man, every man is also his own truth and his own good, or his own love and his own wisdom. Apart from these he is not a man.
But the Lord is good itself and truth itself, or, what is the same, He is love itself and wisdom itself; and these are the Word which was in the beginning with God and which was God, and which became flesh.

Thirdly: Thus to be taught from the Word is to be taught by the Lord Himself, because it is to be taught from good itself and truth itself, or from love itself and from wisdom itself, which are the Word, as has been said. But every one is taught according to the understanding that belongs to his own love; what is beyond this is not permanent.

All those who are taught by the Lord in the Word are taught a few truths in the world, but many when they become angels; for the interiors of the Word, which are Divine spiritual and Divine celestial things, although implanted at the same time, are not opened in man until after his death, thus in heaven, where he is in angelic wisdom, which in comparison with human wisdom, that is, man’s former wisdom, is ineffable. That Divine spiritual and Divine celestial things, which constitute angelic wisdom, are present in all things, and in each thing of the Word, may be seen in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Sacred Scripture (n. 5-26).

Fourthly: That this is done mediately through preaching does not take away the immediateness. The Word must needs be taught mediately through parents, teachers, books, and especially the reading of it. Nevertheless it is not taught by these, but by the Lord through them. And this the preachers know, and they say that they do not speak from themselves but from the spirit of God, and that all truth, like all good, is from God. They are able, indeed, to declare the Word, and bring it to the understanding of many, but not to the heart of any one; and what is not in the heart perishes in the understanding; “the heart” meaning man’s love. From all this it can be seen that man is led and taught by the Lord alone, and is led and taught immediately by Him when this is done from the Word. This is the arcanum of arcana of angelic wisdom.

(Divine Providence 172)
June 17, 2017
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Bringing Forth Things that are Useful

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeSelection from Doctrine of Faith ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

From his earliest childhood man has the affection of knowing, which leads him to learn many things that will be of use to him, and many that will be of no use. While he is growing into manhood he learns by application to some business such things as belong to that business, and this business then becomes his use, and he feels an affection for it. In this way commences the affection or love of use, and this brings forth the affection of the means which teach him the handling of the business which is his use. With everybody in the world there is this progression, because everybody has some business to which he advances from the use that is his end, by the means, to the actual use which is the effect. But inasmuch as this use together with the means that belong to it is for the sake of life in this world, the affection that is felt for it is natural affection only.

But as every man not only regards uses for the sake of life in this world, but also should regard uses for the sake of his life in heaven (for into this life he will come after his life here, and will live in it to eternity), therefore from childhood everyone acquires knowledges [cognitiones] of truth and good from the Word, or from the doctrine of the church, or from preaching, which knowledges are to be learned and retained for the sake of that life; and these he stores up in his natural memory in greater or less abundance according to such affection of knowing as may be inborn with him, and has in various ways been incited to an increase.

But all these knowledges [cognitiones], whatever may be their number and whatever their nature, are merely the storehouse of material from which the faith of charity can be formed, and this faith cannot be formed except in proportion as the man shuns evils as sins. If he shuns evils as sins, then these knowledges become those of a faith that has spiritual life within it. But if he does not shun evils as sins, then these knowledges are nothing but knowledges [cognitiones], and do not become those of a faith that has any spiritual life within it.

This storehouse of material is in the highest degree necessary, because faith cannot be formed without it, for the knowledges [cognitiones] of truth and good enter into faith and make it, so that if there are no knowledges, faith cannot come forth into being, for an entirely void and empty faith is impossible. If the knowledges are scanty, the faith is consequently very small and meager; if they are abundant, the faith becomes proportionately rich and full.

Be it known however that it is knowledges [cognitiones] of genuine truth and good that constitute faith, and by no means knowledges of what is false, for faith is truth, and as falsity is the opposite of truth, it destroys faith. Neither can charity come forth into being where there are nothing but falsities, for charity and faith make a one just as good and truth make a one. From all this it follows that an absence of knowledges of genuine truth and good involves an absence of faith, that a few knowledges make some faith, and that many knowledges make a faith which is clear and bright in proportion to their abundance. Such as is the quality of a man’s faith from charity, such is the quality of his intelligence.

(Doctrine of Faith 25-29)
June 11, 2017

The Word has a Soul

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeFrom Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

In heaven nothing at all is known about the names, countries, nations, and the like; the angels have no idea of such things, but of the actual things signified by them. The Word of the Lord is living by virtue of the internal sense. This is as the soul, of which the external sense is as the body. And just as with man when his body dies the soul lives, and when the soul lives he no longer knows the things that pertain to the body, so when he comes among angels he does not know what the Word is in the sense of the letter, but only what it is in its soul. Such was the man of the Most Ancient Church; who, if he were living and read the Word at the present day, would not cleave at all to the sense of the letter; but would be as if he did not see it, but only the internal sense abstractly from the letter; and indeed as if the letter had no existence. Thus he would be in the life or soul of the Word. It is the same everywhere in the Word, even in its historical parts, which were just such as are narrated, and yet there is not so much as one little word therein that does not, in the internal sense, enfold within it deep secrets which never appear to those who hold the mind in the historical connection.

(Arcana Coelestia 1143)
February 28, 2015

If There Had Been No Word

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If There Had Been No Word

Selection from True Christian Religion ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

If there were no Word there would be no knowledge of God, of heaven and hell, or of a life after death, still less of the Lord.

As there are some who hold, and who have thoroughly convinced themselves, that man may know without the Word of the existence of God, and of heaven and hell, and of other things taught by the Word; such cannot properly be appealed to from the Word, but only from the light of natural reason, since they do not believe in the Word, but only in themselves. Inquire then, from the light of reason, and you will find that there are in man two faculties of life, which are called understanding and will — the understanding is subject to the will, but not the will to the understanding; for the understanding merely teaches and points out what ought to be done from the will; and for this reason many who are of an acute genius, and who understand better than others the moral principles of life, still do not live according to them; but if their will favored them it would be otherwise. Inquire further, and you will find that man’s will is his selfhood [proprium] and that this is evil from birth, and that from this comes the falsity in the understanding. When you have found out these things, you will see that man of himself has no wish to understand anything except what is from the selfhood of his will, and if this were his only source of knowledge, he would have no wish from his will’s selfhood to understand anything but what pertains to self and the world; and everything above this would be in thick darkness.  For instance, in looking at the sun, moon, and stars, if he should think about their origin, he could not think otherwise than that they exist from themselves.  Could he raise his thoughts higher than many of the learned in the world, who while knowing from the Word that all things were created by God, yet acknowledge nature?  If these had known nothing from the Word what would they have thought?  Do you suppose that the ancient wise men, such as Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, and others, who wrote about God and the immortality of the soul, obtained this knowledge primarily from their own understanding? No; they obtained it from others by its having been handed down from those who first knew of it from the ancient Word…. Neither do the writers on Natural Theology derive any such knowledge from themselves; they merely confirm by rational deductions what they knew from the church where the Word is, and possibly some among them confirm and yet do not believe.

(True Christian Religion 273)
January 7, 2015

Can You Contribute to Your Own Salvation?

 We have choices. We need to freely choose to live a life according to the Lord’s principles. The Lord can only approach us with His love and wisdom and mercy if we prepare ourselves to receive Him. We are taught that the Lord can only be present with us in what is His own. So we must acquire truth from the Word and attempt to live by it, shunning evils as sins. When we do this we create a place where the Lord can dwell. The power to do this of course is not ours, but comes from the Lord when we ask for it, and live in the light of the Word.

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“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Taught By The Lord

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

Passages from Divine Providence ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word; and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:1, 14).

Every man is a man not from his face and body but from the good of his love and the truths of his wisdom; and because a man is a man from these, every man is also his own truth and his own good, or his own love and his own wisdom; and without these he is not a man.

But

[T]he Lord is Good itself and Truth itself, or, what is the same, Love itself and Wisdom itself; and these are the Word which in the beginning was with God and which was God, and which was made flesh.

Therefore to be taught from the Word is to be taught by the Lord Himself, because it is to be taught from Good itself and from Truth itself, or from Love itself and from Wisdom itself, which are the Word; but everyone is taught according to the understanding appropriate to his own love; what is taught beyond this does not remain.

All those who are taught by the Lord in the Word are instructed in a few truths while in the world, but in many when they become angels. For the interiors of the Word, which are Divine spiritual and Divine celestial things, are implanted at the same time but are not opened in a man until after his death, when he is in heaven where he is in angelic wisdom; and this in comparison with human wisdom, that is, his former wisdom, is ineffable.

Divine spiritual and Divine celestial things, which constitute angelic wisdom, are present in all things of the Word in general and in particular.

(Divine Providence 172:4,5)
 March 16, 2017
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