Since I was a child, I have always been interested in religion. I was fortunate to have fine ministers sent to Tucson, Arizona, where I grew up: Rev. Harold Cranch, Rev. Douglas Taylor and Rev. Geoffrey Howard. They all taught me, inspired me and answered my questions with serious attention to my growing interest in how to tell others about what we believe in the New Church.
Doug Taylor gave me an answer to people who say they have never heard of my church, or my religion. I say, “Well this is your lucky day!” Later Doug pulled me aside when I was in Bryn Athyn to tell me a new way he explains what the New Church is all about. He said that he quotes John 16, where Jesus says, “I have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now … these things I have spoken in parables, but the time will come when I shall no more speak to you in parables, but I shall show you plainly of the Father.” What if this is what he wanted to tell us! Wouldn’t you want to know what it is?
Recently, I discovered another idea in my random reading that struck me with a new understanding of the First and Second Advents and what the New Church is all about. I can hardly wait to share the idea with a Christian friend, or a New Church comrade, such as a reader of the New Christian Woman posts. God willing, it will enlighten our mutual enjoyment of the coming Christmas season.
Here it is. In a little pamphlet, “The Visible God” by Erik Sandstrom, an explanation of the First Advent and the Second Advent is given that is as simple as it is profound: “Now, the Lord’s advents into the world were modes of His revealing Himself. In His first advent, he took on Flesh, so that he might show Himself among men, and work among them. And in His second advent He caused all that He accomplished while in the Flesh to be described and explained, in order that the glory wherewith He glorified His Human might shine forth. He ever had infinite glory and power. But it is now, in the second advent, that that glory and power have been revealed in fullness.”
Again it is stated, “In His first advent, He put on and glorified His Human. Men saw, but dimly. In His second advent, He revealed in fullness what He had glorified.”
Why is this so profoundly simple? It is all about how God came into the world as Jesus Christ and transformed Himself as the Risen Lord so that the world could be saved. Suddenly the terms I have heard all my life, but never really understood, come into brilliant light: the Human Divine, the visible God, Jesus Christ, came into the world as a little child, and left the world as the Divine Human, the Risen Lord. The Lord’s work of glorification is beyond our understanding, but the Lord wants us to understand as much of it as possible in order to know Him and what He is willing to do to reach us, to love us and to secure our eternal welfare.
The point is not just that God came into the world as Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, but that it happened so that people would be able to see Him, know Him and love Him. All that He accomplished by His First Advent, in ordering the heavens and subjugating the hells, could not have taken place at all unless Jesus Christ appeared before people and “we beheld His glory as of the Only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The miracle of God coming into the world, step by step, through the heavens, into a manger in Bethlehem is profound beyond words. And He did it, just so He could be with us, personally, to accomplish His work of salvation.
Rev. Sandstrom states that Jesus had to touch the hearts of people personally to move their spirits into repentance, redemption and regeneration for the world to be saved. Jesus had to reveal the Way of the Prince of Peace, as he walked among the people, to restore freedom and give people a choice in how to live. The Lord Jesus Christ had the salvation of the human race constantly in view, and consequently, His conjunction – a reciprocal conjunction – with man was His goal. They had to know Him in order to love Him. And we need to know and love Him in the same way. Personally.
To me that means that I pray to God daily, and speak to Him openly during my daily life. When I read even a few verses in His Word, I feel a warmth in the words I read and confidence that I am in conversation with Jesus. I feel His support when I’m struggling to find strength or inspiration to do what I feel I am called to do. I feel His love and His delight when things are going well. As Eric Liddell said when he ran as an Olympic athlete, “I feel God’s pleasure when I run!”
As a result of the Second Advent, we are told that “this New Church is the crown of all the Churches, which have hitherto been on the earth, because it will worship One visible God, in whom is the invisible God, as the soul is in the body.” But, the Crown is not a guarantee. Mr. Sandstrom cautions that “The New Church will become such a crown not because the Lord has made Himself visible, but because the church worships Him as He thus stands forth to view.” The visible God. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Now, the great thing in talking to people about God and our beliefs is when both sides have something to think about and learn. It is not a one way street.
In this case, my Christian friends already have a strong foundation in their focus on Jesus and His saving grace. They speak freely of and press others to have a personal relationship with Jesus. They testify to His power in their lives and tithe to thank Him for all His benefits in their lives here and in the promise of the life to come. They do not feel they are living their faith unless they are reaching out to those less fortunate than they are. They have a very rich faith, one we can learn from. And we have the message from the Second Advent to share with them: Jesus Christ is the One God of Heaven and Earth.
My New Church comrades are wonderfully versed in both the New Testament and Old Testament stories, as well as the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, the Lord’s instrument for His Second Advent. And He has given us as much as we can bear while on earth: thirty volumes of minute details, telling us all about His presence in the Word and in all of Creation, and a description of the life to come. We are very fortunate to have been born into this faith or to have discovered it by some act of Providence in our adult lives. With all the volumes of revelation, however, our greatest strength is in our belief and trust in the One God of Heaven and Earth, in the divine person of Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh. And our Christian friends have the invitation from the First Advent to share with us: to know Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. To know Him as our Friend.
To show how close we all are in our Christian fellowship, I present evidence in the form of a popular Christmas song you will hear frequently in the coming months, applauded by both Christian and New Christian believers alike. This is a song that celebrates the First Advent, with the awe of the miracle that brought God, the Creator, to earth, as the Christ Child in Bethlehem, and with a vision of all He would do to reach the hearts of the people He longed to save. And it embraces the most essential belief of the Second Advent: to worship Jesus as God, the Great I Am!
Mary, Did you Know?
Mary, did you know, that your baby boy, will one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know, that your baby boy, will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know, that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.
Mary, did you know, that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know, that your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?
Did you know, that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God.
Mary, did you know?
The blind will see … The deaf will hear …And the dead will live again.
The lame will leap …The dumb will speak …The praises of the Lamb!
Mary, did you know, that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know, that your baby boy will one day rules the nations?
Did you know, that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding … Is the Great I Am!