The Two Stories of Christmas
by Rev. Peter Buss
There are two stories about the birth of the Lord. They are quite different, although Luke almost surely knew of the Matthew account when he wrote his gospel. It was in the Divine providence of the Lord that two such varied accounts should be written, which should harmonize so well, yet deal quite differently with the moment on which history turned. Without one, the story of Christmas would be woefully incomplete; together, they fill our need to know of His birth, and those who came to worship Him.
We meld the stories together so well in our minds that the differences are easily missed. Here are a few.
Matthew tells the story from Joseph's point of view. His genealogy traces Joseph's ancestry, and Mary herself is mentioned through Joseph. Joseph it is who "called His name Jesus." Luke tells the story through Mary. He seems to have talked with her or one of her close associates: how else would he know of her ponderings, or her visit to the long-dead Elisabeth? Hence his reference to those who were "eye-witnesses from the beginning." Remember also that Zacharias and Elisabeth were of Mary's family.
There are other differences which are carefully observed. In the gospel of Luke, the angel was seen: by Zacharias, by Mary, seen with a host of heaven by the shepherds. In Matthew, Joseph saw the angel only in a dream. It happened four times: Joseph was told to marry Mary, for the Child was of the Holy Spirit; he was warned to flee to Egypt; he was told to come back; and he was warned not to return to Judea but to go to Nazareth. The wise men too were warned in a dream not to return to Herod. None of them saw an angel while awake.
Note what a force Herod was in the gospel of Matthew. He was troubled by the wise men, sought to kill the Lord, and when his attempt to trick the wise men failed, he wrought a terrible carnage on the babies of Bethlehem. None of this is told in Luke. Herod is simply mentioned at the beginning: "There was in the days of Herod the king a certain priest named Zacharias." No flight into Egypt, no danger, just the happy tale of His birth and upbringing.
There is another feature which we easily overlook. In Matthew, Joseph and the wise men were given commands. "Don't be afraid to take unto you Mary your wife." "Thou shalt call His name Jesus." "Flee into Egypt." "Arise, and take the young child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for they are dead who sought the young child's life." "...being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod..."
The angels didn't give any orders in Luke. Gabriel told of an event which would happen to Zacharias. He didn't tell Zacharias to do anything, but the old priest went home and hoped that his prayer was indeed answered, and sought to have a child. Mary wasn't told to do anything, merely informed that she was to be blessed with the infant Lord. Without a command, she consented: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." And the angel didn't tell the shepherds to go to Bethlehem; he simply told them the good tidings of great joy, and his friends filled their hearts with the song of heaven. Of course they went; with haste, and in freedom they went.
Even the tone of the two stories is different. Luke tells of His birth, the quiet peace of that night, and the newborn Babe. By contrast, the wise men came some time afterwards, when He was in a house, and is called a "young child." They brought Him representative gifts. The story deals in events - a journey, a wicked king, a flight: it touches the understanding a little more than Luke does.
The Two Stories: Two Parts in All of Us
Why two stories? Why such differences? Because they appeal to the different parts of us which are receptive to the Lord's birth, and the internal sense tells of how Jesus Christ is born into our wills and into our understandings. Joseph seems to represent the human understanding, and Mary that affection of truth which is the basis of our new will. So the story in Matthew tells how the Lord is born into the understanding, and Luke tells how He touches our hearts.
Let's look at a few of the differences in the stories with this in mind. First, the angel appears in Luke, but is seen in a dream in Matthew. The angel who announced the birth represents an insight about truth from within. Such an insight is much more clouded when the understanding is dominant; when it touches the heart, it is much more clearly seen.
Why was Joseph given commands, but Mary, Zacharias, and the shepherds merely told things, which in freedom they accepted? Truth that enters the understanding appears as a directive - do this, don't do that. The more it enters the will, however, the more the Lord is able to lead us in freedom. He speaks, tells us about the happiness of a good life, and we respond to the implied invitation. Note the implied invitation to the shepherds: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord .... Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." But they made the choice. "Let us now go, even unto Bethlehem."
Herod had a lot to do with the story in Matthew, almost nothing in Luke. The understanding has the responsibility to see evil, and reject it. We ought to think about our selfishness, and our pride, and realize how they could kill what is from the Lord in us - the loves which are growing up in us. We need to be warned by insights from the Word, and try to understand the dangers that threaten the Lord in us, and escape to safety. The human understanding can know the danger of Herod - the love of self.
Then why is Herod absent (or almost absent) from the story of Luke? It is in the Lord's amazing mercy that there are times with all of us when selfishness is just a distant memory. We know we're selfish, and battles lie ahead, and we're going to have to fight for the happiness we are seeing. But somehow there are moments when it is the joy of life we see, and it is this that we remember when the time comes to fight. Have you been in love, and felt only unselfish impulses toward the loved one? Or have you maybe sat with the Word itself in front of you, and felt in its pages the certainty of the Lord's love and of the heaven which He wants to give to you, just to you? Are there times when a friendship seems an unshakable source of joy to you, and you feel grateful to have this friend, and be able to help him or her if you're needed?
Selfishness seems so far off. You're not being unrealistic. You know it'll come back. In the meantime you know something else: that there is a life beyond selfishness. There's a greater love that leaves self behind, and you have been allowed to feel it. Those are the moments when the Lord touches the will, and the best image of those times is Christmas night, in that stable in Bethlehem.
So let us go on to the stories themselves. The one in Luke comes first, and it is also in two parts: John the Baptist, and then the Lord Himself.
Luke's Story: John the Baptist
"Behold I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:5, 6). With these words the voice of prophecy was stilled for 400 years, and when it spoke again, it was he whom Malachi has promised - the prophet like unto Elijah, announcing that the day of the Lord was here at last.
John the Baptist was a herald. His purpose was to prepare the way for the Lord to be born and received on earth. In the internal sense, therefore, he represents that which prepares for the Lord's coming in us. What is it? It is the good of repentance: the good of youth. The story of John the Baptist tells of a young person's good: his trials, his problems. At the time of the Lord's Advent, the people were in evil; and a young person at the start of life is at best selfish, preoccupied with his own needs and wants and ambitions. John's story tells of a young person's first turning toward heaven. And just as the story of John is told in the shadow of the greatest event in history, so its internal sense must be seen in the light of the great joy which is to come, when the Lord is born in us.
The Promise of John
"There was in the days of Herod the King." He it was who governed Judea. He represents the dominion of self-love, with all its destructive potential. Herod is barely mentioned in Luke: to the ordinary man or woman in Judea he was a menacing presence - seldom seen, but feared. He was a harsh ruler whose laws might hurt at any time.
That's the way the love of self is in a normal, well-disposed young person. It's there. It governs, but it's not the focus of attention. We have ideals, hopes, wishes, and we don't consciously make them selfish. But selfishness rules. It might seem surprising that the Lord condescended to be born in a land ruled by an evil king; yet how much more wonderful that He cares to be born in countless millions of minds which are ruled by a destructive self-love. He does; He lives in that same mind; and gently, so very gently, He takes command, and loves us far better than we can love ourselves.
Zacharias was a priest in a dead church - a church which had made the Word of God of none effect through its tradition. A priest, being one who should teach truth and lead to good, represents the good of life, or one who is in good. Zacharias, a simple man, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, represents the good a young person has on the threshold of adult life. For young people have a willingness to do what is right, as Zacharias had. The irony is that he served in a dead church, and so young people often serve the values of their environment. We learn ideas of goodness from others and from a confused and misguided world.
We're taught to be kind to ourselves and our friends first. We learn an unspoken contempt of others who don't think the way we do. We are instinctively jealous of those more successful than we. We see others react with surliness or temper when they don't get what they want, or bad sportsmanship in an attempt to get what they want, and we think that's the way to behave. We allow ourselves to be subject to moodiness because "I don't feel up today." There are so many "values," or behavior patterns that are deeply at variance with the spirit of heaven, but which we grow up and espouse, and they make us doubtful that there is a genuine goodness. It would be nice if there were, but we have so many twisted motives, we doubt there is a true ideal.
Zacharias and Elisabeth, that simple, righteous couple, had no child. They longed for one, prayed for one when all hope seemed lost, but Elisabeth was barren, and they were now old.
The good of our environment, like the good of a dead church, has no hope for the future. Where do the feelings lead which breed jealousy, moodiness, bad temper and contempt for others? If we have only natural feelings, and we think into the future and ask ourselves where they will lead us, what hope do we see? A purely natural life is a terrifying thing, if you see it against the background of seven or eight decades. It's a set of half-realized ambitions, lost illusions and disappointed dreams; a conglomeration of desires, some of which are experienced, and some not; a mixture of momentary happiness and frequent sorrow; and a lot of it is just plain boring. And given enough time, each happy feeling will come to an end.
That's what we have to look forward to if there is no God, if there is nothing more than earthly kindness and worldly thoughtfulness. The rewards aren't very great. Life is barren, if you look into the future. "And they had no son, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years."
That's not the way things are. There is a God in heaven, and life isn't barren. While Zacharias was performing an act of worship - an act that was also his duty - an angel appeared. It hadn't happened for hundreds of years. He was terrified. The angel comforted him and showed that the secret of his heart was known, and he would have a son, a special boy who would turn many hearts to the Lord his God.
Can you blame Zacharias for doubting? Picture the years slipping by in that quiet country village, month after month with hope slowly dwindling, though the wish was as strong as ever. The years had added to the disappointment, and gradually forged the conviction that his prayers had not been heard. And then an angel stood before him and said, "You'll have a son." Just like that. Now, when it seemed too late. Of course he doubted. He wanted it too much to believe immediately.
The promise of John represents the first inkling we get as adults that there truly is an unselfish good and it can be ours. John, the good of repentance, the good of serving others, can be ours. I - I can sow the seed of such a love through my efforts. I can reject selfishness, and know ideal love. It is a great vision, and it comes to each one of us. As we have grown, we've believed in ideals, but our behavior has often seemed to contradict them. Our intellect has told us to act from charity, but there have been times when we've done just the opposite. We all feel the humiliation of sensing that our belief doesn't penetrate to our actions, and we doubt that we can be good. The hells whisper confirmation. "Of course unselfish love can't come to you. You're not a very nice person, you know."
Yes, we do doubt that we can do the good of repentance. But the punishment of Zacharias is what persuades us. He was struck dumb. Dumbness, the inability to express our ideas: it represents the absence of any worthwhile speech if God can't give us ideal love. When we stop and reflect what life would be like without the Lord's love; if we think what is the purpose of all our striving, and our talking, and our theorizing; if behind it all there isn't the promise of what God can give us, then we realize we must overcome doubt. Unless we can hope for a true goodness, we might as well never speak!
For nine months Zacharias was dumb; yet with each passing month, hope was growing stronger. Remember that he went home with hope and then Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months in case she lost the baby. All that time Zacharias was dumb - representing our awareness, as we try to live the life of repentance, of how meaningless any other kind of life is.
We have that awareness! We say, "I will reject this evil because it's wrong." Then we keep telling ourselves that if we don't persevere, nothing else will matter in life. We strengthen our resolve by reflecting how pointless everything will be if we can't stand strong against this one evil. That sense of the spiritual "dumbness" of life unless we repent is a powerful spur to our attempts.
The Birth and Naming
Then he is born, this special child with so great a mission. Yet John was only a herald. So also, the love of repentance, the enjoyment in serving others which comes to us when we repent, is not the true state of heaven. It is just a promise of the heaven which is to come once we are clean. "I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose; He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
The goodness which comes to us when we repent is a herald, yet it is a satisfying thing too. It is productive; it inspires us to work hard, and to meet the needs of others, and to know the contentment of doing so. As yet we don't do it in a very heavenly way. We are rather self-satisfied with the good we have done, critical of others who do things differently, very critical of those who we don't think are trying.
Yet think how powerful is a young person's good, even though it is a mixed goodness. What is possibly the most important human use - the conception and raising of little children - is carried on when we are young and not terribly wise. Probably the uses involved in caring for little children are better performed by young people than by their more charitable parents. Why? I suspect that it is because of the strong and visible idealism that repentance brings. Children see their parents as human, fallible people who are trying; and seeing them trying to be good is a powerful, visible example.
Maybe the difference between the love of a young person and the love of a regenerate one is indicated in the difference between the stories of John the Baptist and John the disciple. They both represent the good of life, but the Baptist represents that good which the letter of the Word teaches, and the disciple, what the spirit reveals. John the Baptist's teachings were harsh and unyielding, even frightening; yet they contained the essentials of a good life. The disciple was led to write a gospel which declared the sovereignty of the Lord's love. "These things I command you, that ye love one another."
Obedience and service were the message of John the Baptist. Love was the burden of the gospel of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.
Now after eight days, the newborn baby was to be baptized, and everyone wanted to call him Zacharias after his father. Elisabeth, then Zacharias, both refused. "We won't name him. The angel named him. His name is John."
This represents a struggle, and an important victory in our lives. You see, when we finally come to have the contentment which repentance brings (and contentment is the "good" of repentance), we're tempted to think, "I did it. I did it. Call this new birth after me. All the work was my own."
If Zacharias had called the baby by his name, it would have been part of the Jewish church. He wouldn't have become the herald of the Christian church. However, he was called John, the name the angel gave, and so became a part of the new age.
If we decide repentance comes only from our efforts, we are going to slip right back into selfishness, and fall an easy prey to the hells. Because it's nonsense: not one of us can repent by our own strength. True, John was born of man. Repentance is fathered by our determination to do what is right. But the good of repentance is a miracle: announced by an angel of God, and born when hope is low.
John: the name represents a true goodness, and that comes only from God. We must call repentance by its true name, know where our new-found contentment comes from, and then it will fulfill its destiny.
Zacharias didn't fail. He wrote: "His name is John." Then his tongue was loosed, and he spoke words of prophecy. We'll do that too. We think of ourselves as mundane, ordinary people; but when the spirit of contentment comes into our hearts, we will dream great dreams. We'll feel that heaven can be born in us, that one day we will know true love, and walk the lanes of heaven, and worship the God of heaven with a clear conscience. We can dream, our tongues are loosed, and we can speak of happiness to come. We can plan to be of use, and help bring happiness to others, and we can plan with the feeling that now, for us, eternity exists. We may be a part of the Lord's plan which ends in a home in heaven. Maybe now we can know the peace which comes when there is no evil love in us. "Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us ... to guide our feet into the way of peace."
NOTES (Part I):
1. Joseph's representation is not given in the New Testament. Joseph of the Old Testament represents the celestial of the spiritual, or the highest of the spiritual (AE 401:24). Also the Lord's spiritual church (AE 163; 295:10; 316:23). It seems reasonable to assume that the same name, although in a much earlier state of regeneration, has a similar representation - the good of life from an understanding of truth. This also is the representation of a carpenter (Athanasian Creed 98).
2. Mary is said to represent the church (Canons: Redeemer IX:8). That which the Lord took from the mother which was human was the affection of interior truth (AC 4593).
3. John was the prophet sent to make ready the way of the Lord, and he did it by teaching external repentance (TCR 688, 689).
4. This preparation was essential if the Lord was to descend (TCR 691).
5. John's baptism represented the cleansing of the external man through repentance (TCR 690).
6. John's food and clothing represented the work of repentance through general truths (AC 7643; 9372:8).
7. Dumbness represents the inability to confess the Lord, from a state of falsity (AC 6988; AE 455:20). Dumbness therefore also represents ignorance of truth (AE 518:4) and a lack of intelligence (AE 587:8).
8. The truths of the infancy of a man's life are such as place himself in the first place (AC 3701). Man is also born into a natural goodness, which he inherits from parents and which has evil with it (AC 3518; for more on this good see AC 3469). Such good is exterior and therefore we might compare it to the good of a church which has outstripped its usefulness.
Luke's Story: Jesus
John the Baptist represents the good of repentance. It seems that this good is obedience and the contentment it brings. We do what the Lord says, and we slowly come to have a clear conscience, and a heaven-sent contentment settles on our minds. We can face the trials of earthly life, we can accept its rewards, and we can look forward to an eternal future - because we're trying to follow the Lord, and that's really all that will matter in ten thousand years' time.
Contentment is good, but it is not heaven. Heaven is the Lord with us; it is the Holy Babe who is born into us after John has come. It is charity, the positive, outgoing joy of serving others. It alone makes every day of eternity a new and exciting challenge; it alone makes human relationship gentle and loving. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea represents the first birth of charity into the mind of a person who has repented.
"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God..." The sixth month of what? The sixth month of Elisabeth's pregnancy. We read the Christmas story in sections, so some connection the Lord put into it can be missed. Luke reads: "And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein He looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee..." (Luke 1:24-26).
This is important because of the states of mind represented by five and six months. Elisabeth still wasn't sure until after five months that the Lord meant to keep His promise. She hid herself - presumably being afraid to lose the child - yet she did so with a growing joy and gratitude in her heart. Five months represents a state in which there is a little faith - not much, just barely enough. That is what we are like when we first start to repent: we believe the Lord will give us happiness, but we only just believe it!
Then we begin to gain confidence. We have lived for some time with the strength to fight evil. We have gone through a few battles, and come out the other side. We're going to win! Five months of alternate strength and doubt are replaced by the "sixth month"- and that is a state of hope, because truths and goods are beginning to unite in our minds. It leads us on to a new state of life.
It is actually before the birth of John that Jesusí birth is announced. Before we have come to the contentment that repentance brings, while we are still working toward it, we begin to sense that charity is the true end of all life. There is a birth beyond the one we presently seek.
The scene shifts now from Judea and Jerusalem to Galilee, and we meet Mary, the young woman betrothed to Joseph of the house of David. Zacharias and Elisabeth were old and very much part of the old church. Mary was young and full of hope and longing for marriage. Elisabeth's child would be born of man. Mary's would not.
John the Baptist - the good of repentance - had a human father. Repentance seems to be our own work. Certainly the satisfaction it brings is a miracle from heaven. Contentment is a God-given gift. Yet it seems to us that we repent, and we earn contentment through our battles, we do good through our efforts. Repentance is the result of our washing ourselves with the external truth of the Word. "I indeed baptize you with water..."
Jesus had no human father. He was conceived of God. That central truth of Christianity has a perfect parallel in every human life, for charity has no human sire. When charity is born in us it is because the Holy Spirit comes upon us, and the Power of the Highest overshadows us, and that Holy Thing which is born within us is truly the Son of God.
For the Lord is born in us as He was born on earth, and the manner of His birth is the same. We might claim the credit for fighting our evils, we might even feel we deserve the contentment with which we are then blessed (although we would be wrong). But
how can we think that we give birth to the spirit of charity? How can we ever believe that we teach ourselves to love others as much as or more than we love ourselves? The power to love another human being is born of God. There is nothing in human inventiveness that could create it.
Time and again we are told in the Word that we cannot love what is good without the Lord; that He inspires all that is good into our hearts. In His wisdom, He chose this most special of all stories to make the point again. "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" asked Mary. How can I have charity when I have not enough wisdom and understanding to conceive of it. Well, we don't conceive charity. Almighty God does; and forever that spirit will be "God with us."
Jesus did have a human mother. Mary was a young, obviously obedient woman, loved by a just man, and looking forward to her marriage. She represents the only state of mind into which the Lord can be born - the innocent affection of truth. With each one of us there is a certain deeply-rooted conviction about true values which doesn't admit of questioning. We grow up being taught to analyze and query and pull ideas apart. We often learn to become quite cynical about certain thoughts and ideals, and we might come to think of ourselves as people of judgment who won't let sentimental ideals sway us. All that may be true; but there are some times in our lives when we respond with affection to true ideals, and we don't ever bother to question them. We don't doubt them for a very good reason - they need not be doubted.
With all people the Lord tries to inspire a virginal, unsullied affection for true ideals. He plants it in Galilee - a quiet part of our natural minds - and He keeps it from the dross of earthly life. In the turmoil of life we sometimes don't notice that it is there. There comes a time, however, when its needs are felt. Mary was longing for marriage to a just man and a carpenter: Joseph of the house of David. Her wish represents the longing to have our gentle ideals wedded to a true understanding of how to make them work.
It is into this state that the Lord can be born. When we are striving to repent, and living our earthly life in some order, a special affection begins to surface again. We feel deeply about certain truths, we feel touched by their meaning for us, we long to have them put to use so that our lives may be changed.
To this state of mind the light of heaven comes, and we begin to sense that charity can be ours. "Hail, thou that art highly favored; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women .... Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call His name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest." Mary was being promised far more than she had expected. She was to have her husband, and her children; but she was also to be the mother of the Lord.
Yes, the Lord gives to us our ideals and our dreams for a happy, useful life here on earth. But He gives us His dream too: that He shall dwell inside of us forevermore.
You know, we have heard thousands of times that the Lord will give us charity if only we'll follow Him. It's not an unknown teaching. But one time in our lives an angel speaks it. The prophets had told of a child to be born; but an angel needed to come when the birth was imminent. That's why Matthew tells us that "All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Behold a virgin shall conceive, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel; which, being interpreted, is God with us."
Mary Visits Elisabeth
We probably picture to ourselves this sweet young woman, full of joy herself, going to share her cousin's happiness, and to talk about all that was to happen. It was a long journey to the hill country of Judea, and it seems to represent a journey we make at times into a state of love to the Lord.
She didn't have a chance to tell the news which had been gladdening her heart. Elisabeth knew, because the babe leaped in her womb as soon as Mary greeted her. This joyful reaction of the growing baby is explained in the Word. It seems to say that as the good of repentance is growing in a person, he becomes more and more affected with the thought of the charity which one day the Lord will give him. Before repentance, we might talk about charity, but it doesn't excite us. As we repent, the hope for its birth in our lives becomes more and more a focus of thought and of joy.
How much we love the words of the Magnificat! They are the outpouring of a simple girl's happiness and gratitude, and her testimony to His greatness. She had accepted the angel's words quietly, but her journey to Judea, and the greeting of Elisabeth unlocked the joy in her heart, and she spoke her sense of blessedness.
Think about the Magnificat, but replace the person Mary with what she represents, the affection of truth. Then it becomes a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord because He has given us this affection, and it will be the mother of charity in us. "For behold, from henceforth, all generations will call me blessed; for He that is mighty hath done to me great things, and Holy is His Name."
There is such joy in the life of religion; such hope, such consolation for hard states to come. "He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent away empty." Maybe as we walk the sometimes hard road of repentance we could take time out to speak of the joy that will come to our hearts too if we keep on walking.
Did Mary stay until John was born and named? It seems most likely. She stayed three months, and the journey from Nazareth must have taken some time. She would also have wanted to be in on his birth.
We can't cover every aspect of this story in one series of articles. Every word has meaning. Why did Caesar Augustus merit mention in the account of our Lord's birth? Our minds picture the decree that all the world should be taxed, and the drawing together of families all over the land of Judea, and there is much to learn from that simple process.
Let's look rather at the journey to Bethlehem of Joseph and Mary. Mary was still his betrothed wife, for he had not consummated the marriage; yet she was great with child of the Holy Spirit.
Bethlehem represents the truth from good that is in the Word - the living truth, the vital ideas which make up the Word of God. To this we turn when it is time for us to receive charity into our hearts, for it is the Word that shows the way. The Word isn't just truth; it is truth from good, truth alive with the promise of a life of charity.
Yet in this world of ours, there are many ways that the Word can be regarded. It is in our own minds that there is an inn which has no place for the infant Lord. An inn represents teaching from the Word, but when that teaching is false and worn out then the inn gets filled up with all sorts of more worldly ideas, and there's no room for charity.
Who was in that inn in Bethlehem? Soldiers enforcing the tax rules, soldiers who cared nothing for the religions of Judea. Tax collectors maybe, gleeful about the opportunity to milk the populace. Businessmen of all kinds, rushing there to pay their money and get back to their work. Farmers, in for the week or the night so that they could meet the Roman edict.
Nobody knew that in the middle of all this service to the god of money the God of heaven and earth was about to be born on earth. What would have happened if they had known? Would they have made room in the inn? Perhaps; but reluctantly. Their farms were waiting. Their businesses were idle. There was a huge gathering of people for the fleecing at the tax tables tomorrow. What a nuisance it would be if God were to come to that inn that night!
The natural mind, which ought to be governed by the truth, and which ought to have room for the Lord at all times, is very involved in many other things. It is filled already, and many of its inhabitants don't lead to the truth.
Isn't it wonderful that the Lord could be rejected at the inn but still find a place to be born? The Maker of heaven and earth would be born where no one else would care to be born. He was born there because there wasn't room for Him elsewhere. But then the whole story of the Lord's advent is the tale of His mercy, and His accommodation to people's faults.
He found a manger instead. He could have been born, we are told, in a palace, on a bed adorned with precious stones; but then He would have been among those who cared nothing for the truth, and there would have been no significance to His birth. He was born in a manger, because horses feed there, and it represents the humble, quiet learning from the Word which brings true values.
We fight the fight of repentance. We turn to the Lord. But still in our minds there are values and thoughts so worldly that we have no room in our conscious thought for Him. He has to be born secretly! He has to be born secretly.
Is there a person in this church who will say, "The Lord has been born in me."? No. We think we're still much in need of repentance. There are evils we have put aside. We're learning to be content with many things, and we find joy in many good values. But life in this world is so time-consuming that we seldom stop to think, "How is charity progressing in my heart?"
The Lord is born secretly. Just as few people knew He was born, so we are far from sure that charity is sown within us. The spiritual manger is a quiet place in our minds, and it is seldom visited by the conscious thought. It represents instruction by the Word itself; it is the state of mind in which the Lord Himself teaches us from His Word, and we are touched by it, and guided by it. The swaddling clothes in which the Lord was wrapped represent the innocent and simple truths that charity brings with it when it is born in us.
The Lord may be born secretly, but His impact is great. We may not know that He has come to us, but He does gently and silently control our lives from that time forth. We may not know how deeply certain truths from the Word have moved us, but they are directing our paths. Regeneration is a quiet and gentle operation, far from the bustle of the big city and the teeming inn. Yet its influence is all-pervasive. The person who is being regenerated does experience happiness because charity is born in him. He is not aware that that is why he is happy!
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night." Yes, the shepherds are in the same country. They belong in the same heaven as does charity.
They don't belong in palaces or inns. Had the Lord been born in a palace in Jerusalem, those simple people would have been turned away when they came to see Him. That is why He was born among those who would receive Him.
Of all people on earth, He chose a few shepherds. They were simple people, doing their job in the dark night. Their heads weren't filled with making money at the tax tables or rushing back to their businesses. They were worried about whether one of their flock got hurt.
A shepherd represents the kind of truth that teaches us how to live, and there is that kind of truth in each of us. It is the first truth to recognize the Lord when He is born in us. There are many forces in our minds, many knowledges as well. There are many truths stored up in our memories. But there are just a few which have always touched us, a few that have meant more to us than others have. These are the shepherds.
It's different for each person. Some people find the truths about little children deeply appealing. They study them, are touched by them, and they use them to make little children happy. They might be devoted parents, or teachers, or social workers; but they are using the truth to help children. Others feel very deeply about the importance of bringing principle into public life, and they work hard to make a truly Christian contribution to public life. Some people are affected by the visions of conjugial love, and they will always respond to the needs of marriage, and try to help others to find its happiness.
Now if we are people who are living the life of repentance, then these special areas of life are like shepherds. There is a part of life which we will always try to take care of. We might be contradicting ourselves in other areas. A teacher might want a great deal for his students that has not yet become a part of his private life. What is important, however, is that in one area of life he really uses the truth to live well.
Did you notice that each time an angel appeared there was consternation, or fear? Zacharias was afraid. Mary was troubled. The shepherds were sore afraid. There is holy fear in all of love. If I love young children very much, I have a fear lest I hurt them. I know myself. I know how limited I am, and how often I don't follow the Lord. I'm afraid that my weakness will be directly responsible for hurting them. Holy fear is good, in that it keeps us trying, as hard as we can.
This fear is most active when we see a new vision of the ideal - and that is what is represented by the appearance of the angel. When you sense once again how powerful worship is in building a sense of the Lord's presence, isn't it natural to fear that we haven't through family worship given our children the joy of worship?
The angel spoke consolation in each case. Fear not. I am here to bring good tidings. The Lord is so very merciful. We have not done what we should have done, but if we have repented, then He is not looking at our mistakes, He's looking forward to the positive steps of the future. In the eyes of stern truth we are all found wanting. All we have to do is repent of our chief sin, and the Lord overlooks and compensates for the rest, and gives us time to turn from them also.
With each of us there is an innocent set of feelings which have long been shepherds, steering at least some of our feelings toward goodness. Each one of us responds with kindness to the needs of others in one area of life - does it almost without thought, from a sincere desire to help. When the Lord is born in our minds, these feelings first recognize the birth. They go to the Word. They sense the presence of Mary - the affection of truth; of Joseph - the desire to understand; and of Jesus - the spirit of charity. They are overjoyed with the loves which are filling their hearts.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, and telling all their friends about what they had seen. "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." There's a part of us that speaks of the joy of charity, and there is a part that meditates about it. The shepherds saw Jesus only once: Mary would care for Him as He grew. It is the part of the affection of truth to reflect on experiences which testify to charity in ourselves, and see how to nurture it as it grows.
Simeon and Anna
There were two others who saw the Lord, at His presentation at the temple. Simeon seems to represent our longing to believe, to have trust in what the Lord will give us. He it was who was promised that he would not die until that salvation should be shown to him. His words are so beautiful: "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people." His death represents the passing away of doubt. No longer do we have to want to believe; when charity has been born in us we do believe.
Anna was a prophetess, and a widow and an old woman. Her life must have been hard in a church where there was little to prophesy about, and her husband had died after only seven years of marriage; yet she was truly devout, spending all her time in the temple. She represents those states that long for true principle, and are deprived of them: they too are uplifted by the Divine birth.
All the people of this story reflect the feelings, the loves and wishes of man: for the story of Luke is the story of the will, and how it responds to the Lord's birth within us. Therefore the story is uplifting, full of happiness and hope for the future, full of prophecies and the praise of God. It ends with the progress toward a full state of charity which rules the world of the mind. "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and the grace of God was upon Him."
References to the Heavenly Doctrine (Part II)
1. A month signifies a state as to truth. AR 935. The tenth month, truths of remains. AC 858. A month also signifies a complete state, and the next one the beginning of a new state. AC 7831, 8053, 8057, AR 935.
2. The number 5 signifies a little, or few, especially in relation to much larger numbers. AC 649, 798. It also signifies what is just sufficient for that particular state. AC 10255; AE 548:8. It seems that Elisabeth's hiding for five months of her pregnancy might therefore represent that in that state one fights from little of faith, but from enough to carry the battle. Her fear of losing the child the Lord had promised her might also indicate a small degree of faith.
3. The sixth month would seem to signify a new state, when there is a fullness of truth and good. Six when leading up to seven represents combat, and the end of the old state. Cf. AC 737, 9278, 8506 et al. Its relation to seven always remains, but it is also a composite of 2 and 3, and represents what is holy of faith. AC 737:3. Also all truths and goods together. AC 10262:5, AR 245; and what is complete to the end. AR 489, 610; AE 847.
4. The hill country of Judea, where Mary visited Elisabeth, would seem to represent an ascent to a state of love to the Lord. Cf. AC 3653; AE 405:34.
5. The babe leaped in the womb represents "joy arising from the love of the conjunction of good and truth, thus the joy of celestial love." AE 710:31. The particular joy was the realization that with the birth of the Lord in us, a far deeper conjunction of principle and the love of principle will take place: spiritual charity will be born.
6. The inn represents the exterior natural of man. AC 5495/6; 7041. It represents that mind instructed by doctrine. AE 444e. It represents a place of instruction, and that was why there was no room for the Lord there, because the instruction in the Jewish church was false. AE 706:12.
7. The Lord could have been born in a palace, on abed adorned by precious stones, but then He would have been born among those who did not love Him, and there would have been no representation to the birth. AE 706.
8. A manger, where horses feed, represents spiritual instruction from the Word itself. AE 706:12. Five times a story is told which includes the reason the Lord was born in a manger, because horses feed there, and it represents instruction which "feeds the understanding." TCR 277; SS 26; SD 3605e; De Verbo 1; AR 255.
9. The Lord was wrapped in swaddling clothes because they represent first truth, truths learned in an innocent way. AE 706:12.
10. Shepherds represent those who teach and lead to the good of charity through truth. AC 4713; AE 315:11 et al. Abstractly, therefore, those truths which a person has which lead to good. AC 6044, 6074; AE 388:17.
Matthew's Story: The Birth of Jesus Christ
"The generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham." That is how the new covenant between the Lord and man begins. The trouble is that what follows is a list of names, tracing the descent from Abraham to David, and then through the royal line down to Joseph. Most of us skip quickly to verse 18, where the "real story" seems to begin.
It begins right at verse 1. "The generation, or origin, of Jesus Christ." This isn't a story of Joseph's parentage. A study of the list shows that, for it has several omissions. Nor is Joseph's parentage important in one sense, since Jesus was not born of Joseph. Nor is it important that Jesus was the "son of David," since He Himself rejected that notion, saying, "If David then called Him Lord, how is He his Son?" (Matthew 22:45; cf. AE 205)
The list of 41 names given here is a most holy progression, and that is why it appears at the very beginning of this new Word of the Lord. A complete study on this subject appears in the NEW CHURCH LIFE for December, 1975. Here a few essential points will be made. The Lord is called the son of David and Abraham because He was born a spiritual celestial Man, that is, One in whom truth was always united to a love for people's salvation. His "descent" through Abraham and David is divided into three sections. It depicts how He took on all the states of good and truth in the three heavens as He lived here on earth. We might say that every good love and every wise thought that mankind will have, to all eternity, was gathered together in Jesus Christ.
This was the Human that the Lord assumed, and then He made it Divine, so that all states with angels and men from that time forth could be infilled with His presence and His power. Therefore this list of names tells not only of His taking on these states, but also of His glorifying them. It prefigures the entire spiritual story of the New Testament.
Much of this we cannot see as yet in our infant church. However, when we read these names with a feeling of holiness, knowing of the story which is hidden within them, the heavens who rejoice in seeing the process of the Lord's generation are most deeply delighted. We too can come in time to appreciate many, many ways in which these 17 verses introduce us to a spiritual story which we will spend eternity exploring.
"And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." To Matthew, who searched out Joseph's parentage, the important thing was to show that Jesus was born into the house of David. By Jewish law, since Joseph had claimed parentage of the infant Lord, no one would question His place as the oldest son in that house: therefore He was of the house of David, both by Mary and by Joseph in a legal sense.
In the spiritual sense, however, the story of Joseph is the story of something that houses the Lord in us, although it is not nor ever could be, His father. The birth of the Lord in us is the birth of true charity. Joseph seems to represent the good of the understanding, or the good of faith. It is the understanding that provides a home for charity. It is the understanding which protects and shields it while it is growing; it does not hurt it, and won't let others hurt it either.
Joseph had the privilege of being the Lord's protector! He was a simple man, a carpenter, seeking marriage with a young girl of his village; yet something in his character enabled him to serve the Divine birth.
He was in one way a child of his time. When he found Mary was with child, he drew the obvious conclusion. She had been absent for three months in Judea; she must have found a lover. The Word says he was a just man, but he was so by very lowly standards. If his wife was untrue, he had two choices: to denounce her publicly, and let her be stoned to death; or to send her home in silent disgrace. Why didn't he consider the third possibility - asking Mary herself what had happened? He was a just man, who didn't want vicious revenge; but he wasn't that just.
He represents the character of our understanding when charity begins to be born within us. It is just by worldly standards, and at first it cannot comprehend when a miracle begins to take place. When we begin to sense the spirit of charity, we are suspicious of it. Where did it come from? We didn't create it. Maybe it is a false value of the world. Maybe the feeling of loving the neighbor which we begin to have is misplaced sentimentality, or it's the result of a stage of life we're passing through. Maybe it is selfishness under a new guise - we're feeling well - disposed toward people because of what they'll do for us in return.
It is a common thing to suspect our best motives. If a man has repented and he begins to discover the rewards of repentance the hells will be quick to cast doubt on his new-found love. Also, the understanding has been taught to query our motives and test them. Thus it is recorded that Joseph thought on these things, and while he did so, he received an answer from heaven. An angel came to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." An angel represents the communication of some essential truth from the Lord; it is a "message" from Him, for the word for "angel" and "messenger" are the same in Hebrew.
The most appealing characteristic of Joseph, and the secret of his representation, was his willing, and often thoughtful, obedience. He did what the angel commanded. He didn't doubt that vision, and he married Mary and was content not to consummate their marriage until after the Lord was born. That is the kind of understanding that can foster charity. The understanding that is stubborn, and bears grudges, and meditates on how it has been wronged cannot house charity. Even after the angel had appeared Joseph could have been offended. He could have doubted what he had heard, for, we are told, an evil man does not believe visions. He could have resented the fact that the girl he wanted had been chosen, and sought another. It was a measure both of his love and his obedience that he not only married her, but he did many other things that we scarcely notice in the story.
We assume that it was Joseph who found the manger and saw to it that the Babe could lie comfortably in it. It was Joseph who kept Mary in a house in Bethlehem. He it was who arose at night and fled to Egypt, and made a living in a foreign land; and then returned, but took care to find out who was king in Judea.
The true human understanding is able, thoughtful, and most of all obedient to the Word. It joins itself to the innocent affection of truth, which is Mary, and it calls charity by its true name. Joseph called His name Jesus, acknowledging the Divine origin of this Child. In a similar way our understanding comes to know it did not father charity. And in return for this obedience, charity grows and waxes strong in the human understanding, just as Jesus grew in Joseph's home.
The Wise Men and Herod
Have you noticed the orderly introductions to each section of the Matthew story? Chapter 1, verse 1: "The generation of Jesus Christ...." Chapter 1, verse 18: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise...." Chapter 2, verse 1: "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king...." In the spiritual sense we are able to know what state is being addressed: first, a prefiguring of how charity will come into being in us; then its birth in us; and lastly, its progress and its recognition.
The wise men, like the shepherds in Luke, represent those things in us which first recognize and rejoice that charity is come into being. The shepherds portrayed the states of good; the wise men, the states of truth which become aware of this new love which we have.
They were from Syria, and they had some stories of the Ancient Word. They knew of Balaam's prophecy that a King would be born to the Jews, and a star would light His birth. We cannot doubt that they knew He was no ordinary king. Unlike the rest of the people on earth at that time, they still had from the Word a knowledge that He was God Messiah. Why else would they say, "We have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him"?
Had they watched each night for the star, as did their ancestors before them? Or was the star so large that it had made them wonder if it was the long-promised sign? We don't know, but must suspect it was the latter. Nor do we know how long their journey took; only that when they arrived in Bethlehem, the Lord was a "young child," living in a house. What matters is their knowledge about the Lord, for it was that which led them to Him. Thousands must have seen the bright star in the sky; just a very few, because they had searched the Scriptures, took their journey to see Him.
The kind of people the wise men were helps us to understand what knowledges in us will recognize the Lord's birth in our hearts. For with all of us there are remains of truth, truths which we have learned and loved, which stay alive in our minds. Many truths that we learn seem unexciting and are filed away in the memory. Some few touch us, and we pay attention each time we hear them. They are constantly on the lookout for charity, leading us to seek kindness and love of the neighbor. When the Lord is born in us those truths are what recognize Him.
The situation is the same as with the shepherds. There were many people in Judea the night the Lord was born, but only a few knew of His birth. There were thousands of people in Syria at the same time, and only a few knew that a King had been born. For at first most of our mind stays earthbound, and concerned with mundane things and carried away by worldly knowledge. Just a few principles in us acknowledge charity, and pay homage to it. Yet from that small beginning, from the worship of the "wise men" in our minds, charity takes increase.
The wise men came first to Jerusalem. The gospel doesn't say that the star led them there, merely that they saw it in the East; but the Writings do say it led them to Jerusalem. Jerusalem represents historical or dead faith. At first that is all the church there is in our minds, and the ruler in that church is Herod - the love of self.
Few people in history have been as contemptible as Herod the great. He was not a Jew, but managed to be placed on the throne of David - the first man not descended from David to rule. He wanted to be loved by his subjects, but at the same time was insanely cruel in putting down any real or imagined uprisings, thereby ensuring their hatred. He built the temple in Jerusalem to curry favor, but his atrocities made favor impossible, and he secretly decreed that many leading Jews should be killed at his death, so that there would be mourning. He married a Jewish princess of David's line, and their son could have been accepted as king: In a fit of suspicion he put them both to death, and then regretted it, both because he had loved her, and because the people had too.
He represents the government of falsity from the love of self, with all its contradictions, and its self-destructive emotions. He was an old man when Jesus was born, yet he was troubled, and sought to kill the infant Lord. It is the love of self that is threatened when charity begins to grow in our minds; and Herod's plots represent our battle with selfishness.
No one openly sets out to be uncharitable, or to pursue only selfishness. It is a spirit that lurks within us, and constantly tries to protect its own. The Writings point out that a selfish man is very pleasant, even apparently kind, while things are going well; but when self is seen to be n the smallest danger, hatred breaks out.
"He was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him" because the King of the Jews had been born. The Lord is called the King of the Jews to represent His government in s from true love; and government from selfishness' does feel threatened. We will find ourselves for many years in a conflict between what will help others and what will help ourselves only.
Herod called together his own learned men and asked them where Christ should be born, and sure enough they knew.
It would seem that these chief priests and scribes represent memories about truth which appear holy, but which actually serve self. It is possible to love truths, the Writings tell us, but only for the sake of reputation, and "if they do not minister to his reputation he loves them not" (Life 35). Charity interferes with much of our comfortable, self-centered life. Through that life the hells try to destroy it.
We may thank heaven that we are not left to ourselves. An angel, a sense of truth from within, keeps us from betraying the wonderful feelings that are growing within us, just as the angel warned the wise men not to return to Herod. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delighteth in his way." Herod thought he was so clever; he wound up being mocked by the wise men, for the scheme he devised was known in heaven. Even so, the Lord will never allow charity to die in the willing heart, no matter how strong the danger seems when we're fighting for it.
Not in Jerusalem but in Bethlehem was the Lord to be found. Not in the dogmas we have grown up with; not in the outmoded ideas of our former faith, but in the new, exciting truths which we now find in the Word itself. For years we learn from the Word and find it sort of satisfying; but there comes a time, when charity is born, that that same Word seems to have new truth in every page. It is this new truth which is represented by Bethlehem, the place where Benjamin and David, and Jesus were born.
To Bethlehem they went, and found that little family in a house; for a house in Bethlehem represents the thoughts of the mind ordered by the Word. They worshipped Him and they gave Him gifts - most special gifts, whose significance they were the last people on earth to know, for 1700 years! For gold represents the good of love, and frankincense the good of charity, and myrrh the good of obedience. What they were reflecting in their gifts were that these things, and these things alone, are ours to render to the Lord. We have one thing only - our freedom to receive from Him the loves of the three heavens. All else is His; but we can withhold from our Lord our free reception. In giving these gifts, the wise men represented all people of all times, and the three precious gifts which they can receive and return to their God.
The Flight into Egypt
Why did the Lord God flee from the land wherein He chose to be born? He needed to escape from Herod, and it was done immediately, by night. In that far country He could grow in safety.
A most special development in human life is represented by the flight to Egypt. Remember that Abraham and Joseph had been there, and it was promised that the Lord would be called from there. Egypt represents the realm of natural learning and endeavor. When charity is born in us, we need to carry it into the field of external learning and thought. We need to learn how to be kind in external ways first; we need to think about helping people with bodily and natural concerns before we can practice spiritual charity.
One day we are going to be wise, sensitive people who know how to serve the spiritual needs of others. One day we will understand the ebb and flow of feelings in our neighbor, and adjust ourselves so as to help him in a discriminating way. But when charity is small in us, we apply it in a rather natural way. We think how to help others, how to meet their needs, and even when we think we're meeting their spiritual needs, we go about it in a natural way. It is this concentration on natural understanding that is represented by the sojourn of the Lord in Egypt.
It is interesting that Luke doesn't say anything about a journey into Egypt. In the will of man, the Lord causes the love of charity to grow, steadily: "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit; and the grace of God was upon Him." In the understanding, the realm of free endeavor, we will all ascend from a natural to a spiritual application of charity; from Egypt to Israel.
In the meantime, back in Judea, something terrible was happening. Herod in his fury was killing every little boy he could find around Bethlehem. The Writings tell us that this represents the end of all truths with those who hate the Lord. Perhaps in the spiritual sense it's saying that we know how all truths will die when the Lord is not present. Perhaps also it represents a deep attack on spiritual principles, even as charity is growing strong in the natural mind.
The child Jesus returned to Galilee, where He grew until the age of thirty, and for seventeen hundred years no one knew what He was doing there. Now we do know; for the new light that has burst upon our world has told us of His life from earliest infancy. We know how He discovered within Himself the love for saving all of the human race. We know how He learned all things that can ever be known, in heaven and earth, and made them Divine. We know how he fought each and every hell, and finally all of them together. We know how the infinite Divine love and its form, Divine truth, came down into Jesus Christ until He was filled with the glory which had always been in His soul. We know how the power He took to Himself as the Word made flesh will make all states of heaven from this time forth, and even forevermore. "All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made."
Yes, there is one more Christmas story: just a few words in the gospel of John. It tells of the Word which made all things, and in the internal sense it is speaking of the human mind, where a new creation takes place each time a person repents. His whole world is made anew, into the form of charity, by the power of the Word.
It is said that the Word was made flesh, and that doesn't mean that Jesus took on a body of flesh. It means that the truth of the Word became Divine love in Him. Every law of His Word became resplendent with His love. This is the kind of truth which forms our minds, and gives us a vision of our God, if only we turn to Him. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
References to. the Heavenly Doctrine and the Scriptures (Part III)
1. The Ancient people framed genealogical tables to show that one spiritual state was born of another. AC 339; 400. Full references on the genealogies in NCL, December, 1975, pp. 522-533.
2. The Lord was not "the son of David." AE 205.
3. The Lord was born a spiritual celestial Man, which is what is meant by "The Son of David, the Son of Abraham." AC 4592. This means that in Him was a desire for truth and a longing for good, for truth was united, to good with Him from birth - something not so of others. AE 449:3 et al.
4. The Lord was born in Bethlehem because it represents the spiritual of the celestial, as does Ephratah. AC 4594; 4593.
5. All the things the Lord did on earth were representations of internal things which He accomplished. AE 654:19.
6. The Christmas story clearly teaches that the Lord from conception is Jehovah, and that means that as to the life itself He was always Jehovah. AE 852:3.
7. An angel represents some essential thing in the Lord and from the Lord. AC 1925:4.
8. The wise men were in the knowledges of correspondences, and they knew from the Ancient Word and from Balaam's prophecy that the Lord would be born, and a star would herald His birth. AC 3249; 3762:5; 10252:6; 3242; AE 324:10.
9. The star signifies knowledge from the Lord, about the Lord. SS 23:3; TCR 205; AE 72; 422:20; AC 9293:3. Apparently it was a bright star. AR 954.
10. The Writings say that the star led them first to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem. AE 422:20.
11. The gifts they gave signified internal or spiritual gifts. AE 661:2.
12. The Lord is called King from the truth of good. AC 9144; 3009; 4973; 9954; et al. He is called the "King of the Jews" because the government of His truth is from good. AE 433:24.
13. The Lord went into Egypt to represent an essential part of man's regeneration: It "pleased the Lord to glorify Himself" as man is regenerated; and that required that He be instructed first in natural knowledges from the Word. AC 4964:3.
14. Killing the children in Bethlehem represented that there were no truths left in the church, from the Word, when the Lord was no longer present. AE 695:15
-New Church Life 1981;91:521-529, 567-576,616-623