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online, based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
The Darkness of Christmas
by Rev. Robert S. Jungť
Mary and Joseph were called to their own city Bethlehem to be taxed, because all the tax lists were in the original homes of the people. They traveled the long journey, and arrived just at the time when Mary was going to have a baby. But there was no room for them in the inn. The Lord Himself was going to be born in the world. He was going to come and help men, and teach them and heal them.
But men were so evil that there was no place for Him to be laid except in a manger, a kind of trough where animals usually ate. Their hearts were as black and cold as the night when the Lord was born.
Almost no one paid any attention when the Lord was born. But Mary tenderly wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in the manger. She put Him on a linen cloth and wrapped the corners around Him so He would be nice and warm for the night.
But while most people paid no attention and turned their backs on the Lord, when He was born there were a few others who loved Him and came to see Him. The first of these were the shepherds.
You remember when David was a young shepherd watching his sheep, he killed a lion and a bear when they attacked the sheep. Shepherds must be very brave and loyal. They could not run away from danger.
It was fairly easy to watch the sheep during the day when they were feeding together and it was light. But when the night came, the evil beasts began to prowl. It was hard to see where the sheep and baby lambs were. It was hard to see a wolf, a lion, or a bear, and particularly hard to fight them.
Still, in spite of all the dangers, the shepherds were watching their flock by night.
"And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them." Then they were afraid. But it was a different kind of fear. They were humble and afraid of what the angel might tell them in the middle of the night.
But then the angel said, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. " The angel did not appear to the people in the inn. The angel said to the shepherds who were patiently watching, "unto you" is born a Savior. The Lord was truly born only among those who were watching, who would love Him. He comes only to those who are willing to come with haste to see Him.
The same is true for every one of us. If we are too busy with other things to take time to learn about the Lord, we are like the people in the inn, and there is no room for the Lord in our hearts. We must take time every day to think about the Lord and learn about Him if He is really going to come in our hearts. Otherwise, we will just sleep comfortably and never see the Lord.
But there were others faithfully watching at night. The wise men were hoping for that day when a special star would appear. And it did appear and led them to Jerusalem. But no one there had seen the star. Selfish Herod and his court were too busy trying to get the power for themselves. Just like the people in the inn, they had no idea that the Lord was born.
They could have been watching. They had the Word and looked in it to find out that the Lord was to be born in Bethlehem. But instead of hastening to worship, Herod plotted to kill the baby Lord. Certainly Herod's heart was dark and black as night.
But the wise men rejoiced and followed the star to Bethlehem and offered precious gifts to the Lord, gifts so valuable they were worthy to give a king. The wise men knew that the Lord was indeed the greatest King of all. The wise men knew this and worshipped the babe, but no one of Herod's court came to worship.
You see it was true, just as the prophets had said, the people walked in darkness. It was not the darkness of a regular night, but a horrible and fearful darkness in their minds. They did not even want to know about the Lord.
But you know that such darkness is inside every one of us. How many times do we forget to do what we are told, what we know is right. We forget because the darkness of selfishness makes us too concerned about what we want instead of remembering the Lord. When the evil spirits crowd around us, no angels can come near. Too often we're so busy trying to get our own way that we would never see the truth if it appeared, even as a star appeared in the East.
But we don't need to be this way. We will see the Lord with joy, if when we are tempted to do what is evil, we remember to look for what the Lord wants us to do. His telling us what He wants us to do is the star in the East. If we love Him and are really trying, we will see that star and know exactly what the Lord wants.
If we faithfully do our jobs, even if they are hard and difficult, we will be like the shepherds. We won't be sleeping, but we'll be watching and the angels will be with us and tell us how to recognize the Lord when He comes. We will see the wondrous thing the Lord has made known to us. Like the shepherds, we will return, glorifying and praising God for all the things that we have heard and seen.
The Lord was born in the darkest of spiritual nights. He came as the truth, that God Himself is Divinely Human. We can see Him; He will teach us, and we can love Him with all our hearts, for Jesus Christ born in Bethlehem is the one God of heaven and earth.
But again many have lost sight of the Lord. The vision of Him must be restored to another age filled with darkness. Once again the Divine truth has been revealed to the whole human race. "And the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." "A light to lighten the gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel. " (Luke 2: 32)
Yet the Word is restored. Though we walk through the valley of the most grievous temptations, we can see again a true and rational vision of the Lord our Savior. While many sleep in the inn, or busy themselves in a self-centered Jerusalem, we do not need to. We can come with haste, fall down and worship. We can offer the most precious gift of all, our love, and sacred devotion to His Kingdom on all planes of life. In no other way can there be peace on earth, and goodwill towards men!
-New Church Home 1974;39:62-65