Seeing the Lord in His Coming
by Rev. Kurt H. Asplundh
If you were to be asked, What is the most important thing about Christmas? all of you would probably answer: This was the day that the Lord was born on earth as a Man. And that is true. That is the most important thing about Christmas. But there is another important thing also which we must not forget. Not only had the Lord to be born upon earth, people also had to see Him. Remember that! There were two important things. The Lord had to be born, and people then had to see Him.
Now many things happen in this world that we do not see. Perhaps many of the gifts that you have received today were made by people you have never seen, and it does not matter that you never saw them. But the Lord came on earth to do a very special kind of work, and it demanded that He be seen. This was a little bit as it is with a truth. A great truth may be written down in a book, and there it is. It has been born into the world. But suppose no one ever took that book off the shelf, and no one ever opened it and read that truth. Then it would not do any good, would it?
It was the same way with the Lord. If the Lord had been born on earth, but no one had ever seen Him, or heard Him teach and listened to Him, then His work could not have been accomplished. So it was important not only that the Lord be born on earth but also that men should see Him. Now you will remember, because you have heard the story of the Lord's birth many times, that there were two kinds of men who came to see Him in order to fulfill this second part of Christmas. First there were those who were nearby in the fields of Bethlehem, guarding their sheep; lowly shepherds of the fields. But on the night of the Lord's birth the angel appeared to them and told them that the Lord was born on earth. The shepherds then went to see the Lord, and when they had done so they went and told others, so that they, too, might see Him.
The other kind of men who came to see the Lord were from a far distant land. These were very different from the shepherds. They were not lowly or simple, but were wise men in their own country and were called magi. They knew about the prophecies of the Lord's advent, and when they saw His star in the east they gathered together their belongings and prepared for a long journey. In due course they came to the city of Jerusalem, but they did not see the Lord there because He was in Bethlehem. However, when the priests read the prophecies that the Lord would be born in Bethlehem, then the wise men went toward that little town from Jerusalem. They again saw the star that they had seen in the east, and that star went before them until it came and stood over the place where the young child was. And then it is said that the wise men went into the house and saw the Lord. They saw Him with their eyes, and that was very important; and they fell down and worshiped him.
Think of those shepherds. What kind of men were they? They had work to do. They were guarding their flocks by night in the fields. Many times your parents have to watch over you children by night. They have a responsibility to take care of the little lambs the Lord has given to them. We all have responsibilities that we are to carry out. Sometimes it is very difficult to do this. It is as though the night had come. Things do not seem to go well. It was in the night that the shepherds worried most of all about the wild animals that might come to steal from their flocks; and there are times in our work, as men and women, when we worry more than at others about things going wrong. If we then do our work, we are like the shepherds who watched their flocks by night; and the Lord gives hope to get through the night.
Now the wise men were different because they came from afar. In order to see the Lord they had to travel. They had to make a long journey, step by step by step. So there were these two distinct kinds of people who saw the Lord; and there were others, not good people, who did not see Him. Take Herod, for example. He wanted to see the Lord, but only that he might kill Him. Herod was afraid of the Lord, for He was said to be a king, and Herod wanted to go on being the king. So the Lord protected Himself from that wicked man. The star which led the wise men did not appear to him; he could not see the Lord because he was a wicked man.
As you know, the Lord came on earth many hundreds of years ago. But He has come on earth for every single person, not just for people who lived here long ago but for every one of us even now; and what was true then is true now. Not only must the Lord come for us, but we must see Him. We ourselves must learn to see the Lord, and there are two ways in which we may come to see Him. These are like the two different kinds of men who saw the Lord when He was first born. There is in our minds something that is like those shepherds in the fields by night: that which takes responsibility, that which loves to look after its work and its responsibilities. The things we love we look out for, and this we do from our hearts. The Lord must come to our hearts, even as He came and showed Himself to the shepherds. He can come to our hearts, and give us strength and the hope that the good things we are trying to do will be done by His power and His might.
The other part of our minds which must see the Lord is like those wise men who came from afar. That is our understanding, or our wisdom. This part of the mind sees the Lord in a different way from the heart. The heart responds to the Lord immediately when He comes; when He gives us feelings of hope, we at once feel the comfort of knowing that the Lord is with us. But with the understanding we must go a long distance, step by step, to see the Lord, even as did the wise men. We must learn about Him, even as you children are learning about Him in your homes and in your school, in worship and in church. As you learn about the Lord, you are like the wise men who were coming to see Him: following a star, following the announcement of the Lord that is given in the Word, and learning about Him, little by little, until you come to the place where the Lord lies. Then you will be able to see Him, to fall down and worship Him, and to open up your treasures-the things which the Lord has given you-and to make some return to the Lord.
But you cannot see the Lord, cannot see Him in your minds, until you are prepared. This is the wonder of Christmas for us: to know that the Lord has been born and that we can come to see Him in our hearts and in our minds. When we do this, we will be like those shepherds who said: "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." Not only that, but we will be like those wise men who, when they came into the house and saw the young child, fell down and worshiped Him.
-New Church Life 1966;86:579-581