Higher Resolutions

I know we are well into January, but I’d like to talk about New Year’s resolutions. 

I don’t know about you, but I always feel a lot of pressure around New Years. I feel like I’m supposed to come up with some grand goal and then be on the perfect path to achieving that goal as soon as January makes its midnight debut. In spite of the pressure, it’s tempting to make these glittering promises of self-improvement to myself, because such promises look and feel really good. They’re pretty, shiny pledges and I’m convinced I will look so good wearing them to the ball, or rather, as I watch the ball drop. But if I’m honest, I usually decide to pull a Cinderella and run out the door before the clock strikes twelve. Each retreating foot step seems to shriek: “Just kidding! I can’t handle any big life changes right now! I’m still recovering from Christmas! Even little changes feel huge these days! Maybe next year!” 

I’m not sharing this to be self-deprecating or to pooh-pooh New Year’s resolutions. They really seem to work for some people and that’s wonderful. But what I keep realizing is that we can’t plunge into a meaningful life shift without being ready. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is. We have to be truly ready. And the only way to get ready is to identify what we need spiritually. If we’re not prepared to make spiritual improvements, we won’t see any natural world results. For example, if we want to commit to eating better in the new year, we might first need to really face the fact that junk food has become a false god in our lives. It’s not enough to stock the fridge with celery. We must first acknowledging the spiritual issue at stake or we are setting ourselves up to trip up on the next powdered donut that crosses our path.

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Christmas is Still Christmas

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Luke 2:8-11

Do you feel inspired by this quote, as I do? Then, when you look around you, do you feel discouraged by the loss of spiritual focus in the world, by the vast consumerism and Ho-Ho-Ho Santa-Clausness that appear to be driving the ship these days? Are you disheartened to see so many secular aspects of Christmas, what seems like everybody and their uncle celebrating Xmas but not Christmas? Sometimes, to devoted Christians, it can be outright depressing.

I’m here to buoy you up, to reassure you that all is not lost.

Santa Claus may not seem to have anything whatsoever to do with our Lord Jesus Christ, and he doesn’t, really……. however let’s consider Mr Claus’ nature: the spirit behind jolly ol’ Saint Nick is not one of meanness or greed, but about love and generosity! If people are enamoured with and inspired by Santa, – that isn’t my first choice, to be certain, but it sure could be a lot worse. I have to remind myself that the Lord doesn’t only come to people through the Christian Bible and the Writings for the New Church. Those are the means with which I’m most familiar, and they may be the truest form, but He has clearly told us that He comes to different people in different ways, in ways that suit them best.

In later times when the knowledge of correspondences had been wiped out, [people] began to worship the actual carvings as being themselves holy, being unaware that their ancestors had seen no holiness in them, merely regarding them as representing holy things in accordance with their correspondences. This was the origin of the idolatries which filled so many of the world’s kingdoms. In order to root out those idolatries, it happened by the Lord’s Divine Providence that a new religion should be founded adapted to suit the character of oriental peoples…. 

True Christian Religion 833

If some people simply cannot wrap their brains around the Jesus thing, it’s better that they embrace and emulate Santa than someone much worse, isn’t it? This is about the ‘church universal’, as I understand it, and I’ll bet Santa’s a part of it.

There are people who think that the Lord’s church exists only in the Christian world because only there is the Lord known and only there is the Word found. Still, there are a good many people who believe that the church of God is wider, spread out and scattered through all regions of the world, even among people who do not know about the Lord and do not have the Word. They say that it is not these people’s fault and that they cannot help being ignorant. It would fly in the face of God’s love and mercy if anyone were born for hell when we are all equally human.

Divine providence 325

The Lord takes what we know and turns it to good. Take Christmas lights as another example: we see a lot of those, strung along rooftops and around trees at this time of year, not to mention the elaborate light creations that fill some people’s yards. On the one hand, we may be put off by their gaudiness and heathenly nature; on the other, though, if we consider correspondences, we might remember that light corresponds to truth, and stars to knowledges of good and truth, particularly knowledge about the Lord (AE72). With that in mind, look again out your front window: we’re utterly surrounded by representations of truth!

I wish that everyone could appreciate the Lord Jesus as our Saviour, and the Writings tell us that folks are introduced to this truth upon entering the other world, but in the meantime, it seems that we need to make our peace with the world as it actually is. The mall may be grossly packed with exorbitantly-spending shoppers, but they (by and large) aren’t buying for themselves, they’re generously buying for others. Our Griswold-esque neighbours may have blown a fuse with all their powered decorations, but still, they’re celebrating Christmas. It seems that just about everybody does ‘celebrate Christmas’ in some form or other, certainly more than just Christians, and maybe that’s actually a good thing, after all.

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

luke 2:10-14

Manger Painting

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. . . And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was from the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed wife, being great with child.
And it came to pass, that while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should bring forth; and she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling-clothes, and laid Him in the manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. ” (Luke 2:1-7)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not one thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
And the Light appears in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. . . . He was the true Light, which enlightens every man who comes into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.
He came to His own, and His own took Him not in. . . .And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt in a tabernacle among us, and we observed His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-14)

I love how the deeper you go into the Lord’s Word, the more you find that it’s a continuous garment underneath, that can’t be divided or torn apart, even when the text is purposely obscure to protect against profanation. Over all the glory there is a covering, but for those who seek it earnestly, the glory shines through. I love how Nazareth and Galilee get mentioned with Zebulun and Naphtali, presaging the Lord’s ministry on earth. It’s also neat to see the progression between kings and governors riding on white donkeys, to Jesus prior to His glorification riding on a colt the son of a donkey (e.g. a mule), to riding on a white horse in His second coming.

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But With God, All Things Are Possible

The holiday season is upon us, and it seems like a good time to ponder our readiness to accept the Lord in our lives. Christmas sparks celebration of the coming of the Lord into the world and into our hearts, but in the details of the Christmas story, many people were unprepared for this change: Joseph, Mary, and Herod, to name a few. This was surely not their original plan. Consider Mary’s response to the news of the Lord’s coming. 

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” 
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
(Luke 1:34-38

In my experience, opportunities to accept the Lord into my life are a whole lot easier when I’m prepared and looking for them. Here was a promise of something good, all tangled up in uncertainties. Yet Mary gracefully accepted: “let it be to me according to your word.” Joseph stood steadily by her when he could have walked away. The shepherds picked up and hastened to where Jesus lay. The wisemen diligently followed the star that led to Him. They all moved forward toward the call of the Lord without certainty or clarity of vision. 

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