Over the years (and decades) people have been complaining that Christmas is losing its real meaning. Instead of celebrating the Lord’s birth on earth, Christmas has become commercialized to the point that hardly anything truly spiritual survives. It is as though the world is now trying to get Mary and Joseph a room back at the Inn and get baby Jesus out of that wretched Manger.
Thanks to the writings of scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, we have been given new information that will not only help restore the deeper meaning of Christmas, but provide additional layers of depth that have yet to be fully appreciated.
Swedenborg challenges us to look at the Christmas story not only as an historical event, but more importantly, as a spiritual event in which the Lord is “born” within our hearts and minds. Everything in the Christmas story symbolizes something in the human psyche, which needs to become more open to God’s heavenly influence and message of mutual love.
For instance, Swedenborg explains that the “Inn” in the Christmas story represents the hustle and bustle of the human mind preoccupied by worldly concerns. The Lord cannot be born under such corporeal conditions. The Lord must be born in a place outside the mainstream of everyday worldly life. This special place is in a deeper part of our hearts and minds, where it is protected from the vanities and allurements of the physical world.
The birth, maturity and ministry of Jesus on earth can be understood to symbolize a similar influence growing, maturing and re-educating our hearts and minds.
As profound as this is, and as much as this adds an additional layer of meaning to the Lord’s Advent, Swedenborg doesn’t stop there. He adds some psychology and neuroscience to the Christmas story to explain the real obstacles, which thwart the baby Jesus from being born within our hearts and minds.
Jesus can no more be born in our hearts than the virgin Mary can give birth at the office Christmas party (where lots of non-spiritual activities take place.)
On a deeper examination of Swedenborg’s visionary insights we can discover that the Christmas story addresses a scientifically real neurological “split” in the psyche of humans. The “Inn” represents the outer or external consciousness in humans and the “manger” represents the modest beginnings of spiritual feelings and ideas implanted within our subconscious. (Pssst—those who are familiar with Swedenborg’s theology should connect the “Doctrine of Remains” with the “Manger.”) This inner level of the human psyche is where the Lord is to be born and mature within us—to the point where spiritual order can eventually be restored to both our outer and inner lives.
The biggest obstacle for legitimate spiritual growth is that the outer or corporeal/worldly consciousness has become so habitual and dominant that it has taken on a life of its own and has assumed control of the cockpit of our cognitive powers. In other words, we learn to identify this false and artificial consciousness as our true individuality and identity.
Because of this unfortunate predicament of a false and more external mind taking over, and because this external mind is intimate with our five physical senses, it interferes with—and intercepts—all valuable information coming from either holy books, wise individuals or the clergy. Instead of letting this information penetrate deeper into one’s being-essence, where the Lord’s “manger” exists, it merely rests in one’s worldly memory banks where it is turned into fantasy and the building up of a false sense of self-importance (instead of building a matrix for spiritual conscience).
Just as the Lord was born into the world and challenged its values, the Lord enters into our inner world when we are ready to re-examine our own values, life-choices and actions. That is how one can begin to celebrate a multi-leveled Christmas.
Merry Christmas, everyone—no matter what level you celebrate from!