The Birth of Jesus
2:1Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus,1 that all the world should be enrolled.2 2:2This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius3 was governor of Syria. 2:3And all went to enrol themselves, every one to his own city. 2:4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David; 2:5to enrol himself with Mary,4 who was betrothed to him, being great with child. 2:6And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered. 2:7And she brought forth her firstborn son;5 and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes,6 and laid him in a manger,7 because there was no room for them in the inn.
- decree from Caesar Augustus. It represents the arbitrary action of the will, ruling in selfishness and directed by human reason, to exercise domination over all the thoughts.
- all the world should be enrolled. Despite the intention of Caesar, the enrollment was in the Christ consciousness—The expression of good will under the guidance of enlightened reason and understanding.
- Quirinius. The name means “armed peace,” and Quirinius signifies the ruling power in the egotistic, purely intellectual thought. The imposing of the will of the intellect on all men leads to recognition of the rule of force. The world believes that peace can be maintained only by military force. The state of armed peace now existing in the world is proof of the failure of this conception to bring real peace.
- Joseph, Mary. Joseph and Mary represent wisdom and love, which have been ideas in mind, but are now to bring forth a manifestation in substance.
- and she gave birth. The birth of the Christ takes place in the individual soul when the soul awakens to a realization of the truth that life is spiritual, not material. The Christ is the divine-idea man.
- and wrapped him in swaddling clothes. Swaddling clothes were bands of cloth in which it was customary to wrap young children. These swaddling clothes represent the confinement to the limitations of the physical nature (“manger”) of this first emanation of Divine Life, “there being no room for them in the inn” (outer consciousness).
- and laid him in a manger. A manger represents the animal life of the body in which the new life is first manifested. In man this is the stomach. The inn represents the outer consciousness of spiritual things which cannot conceive, or give room to such an insignificant beginning of the great spiritual development of the soul. The instinct of the soul to express the life of God (the infant Jesus) enters into even the animal life and occupies it.
The Shepherds and the Angels
2:8And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.1 2:9And an angel of the Lord2 stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 2:10And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: 2:11for there is born to you this day3 in the city of David4 a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.5 2:12And this is the sign unto you:6 Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. 2:13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
2:15And it came to pass, when the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 2:16And they came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. 2:17And when they saw it, they made known concerning the saying which was spoken to them about this child. 2:18And all that heard it wondered at the things which were spoken unto them by the shepherds. 2:19But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart.8 2:20And the shepherds returned,9 glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken unto them.
- there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. The flocks represent the divine natural forces in the subconscious, which are under the divine law of protection (shepherds), but obscure (night) to outer consciousness. Vigilance in watching our flocks (thoughts) makes us receptive to the spiritual side of existence. As the shepherds in Oriental countries have a name for every sheep, which is trained to come and go at command, so we should be familiar with our thoughts, and discipline them so thoroughly that they will be obedient to us when we send forth our desire. This familiarity with our mental realm leads to an acquaintance with the character, and gives one an opportunity to strengthen the weak points and transform the undesirable tendencies. It thus clears up and harmonizes the soul so that it is receptive to divine ideas.
- an angel of the Lord. Angels are the thoughts in Divine Mind expressed to do a specific work. Christ is the sum total of the ideas of Divine Mind incarnating in man, while the angels are special thoughts expressed by Divine Mind, working in purity and untainted by matter or material limitations.
- there is born to you this day. The spiritual birth of the Christ.
- city of David. The City of David is Bethlehem, which means “house of bread”, metaphysically, the substance center in man’s consciousness.
- who is Christ the Lord. “Christ” signifies man’s divinity or his higher self born or realized in consciousness. God’s idea of a perfect man has always existed. It was before Adam, before David, and before Jesus. As Jesus explained in Matthew 22:41-45.
- And this is the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The physical birth of Jesus, a sign of the spiritual birth of Christ.“Jesus” signifies the Child who was brought into the manifest world.
- And on earth peace among men. The proclamation of peace on earth by the heavenly host symbolizes the calling together of a great multitude of angelic thoughts praising God and giving thanks for the great demonstration. The higher or heavenly realms of consciousness praise God for this evidence in the body (or earth) of a force that will restore peace and harmony.
- But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart. Mary represents the mother principle of the soul; by subjective thought and mediation the mother principle (Mary) builds the manifestation of the new realization of life (body of the babe).
- And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God. The shepherds’ return represents the spirit of devotion and praise, which should continue to exalt to spiritual consciousness all things that have been externally perceived.
Jesus Is Named
- for circumcising him. Circumcision is symbolical of the cutting off of mortal tendencies, and is indicative of purification and cleanliness. Under the law of Jesus Christ, circumcision is fulfilled in its spiritual meaning—the purification of the individual from the law of sin and death. One is circumcised in the true inner significance of the word only by being thoroughly purified in soul. Then the glory of the inner soul cleansing and purifying works out into the outer consciousness and the body and sets one free from all sensual, corruptible thoughts and activities. Thus man manifests wholeness and perfection throughout his being.
Jesus Is Presented in the Temple
2:22And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord 2:23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord), 2:24and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
2:25And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;1 and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Spirit was upon him.2 2:26And it had been revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 2:27And he came in the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, that they might do concerning him after the custom of the law, 2:28then he received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
2:29Now lettest thou thy servant depart, Lord,
2:30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
2:31Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples;
2:33And his father and his mother were marvelling at the things which were spoken concerning him; 2:34and Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel;3 and for a sign which is spoken against; 2:35yea and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul; that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.
2:36And there was one Anna,4 a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (she was of a great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, 2:37and she had been a widow even unto fourscore and four years), who departed not from the temple, worshipping with fastings and supplications night and day. 2:38And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks unto God, and spake of him to all them that were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
- there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. Simeon means “one who listens and obeys”. The listening faculty of mind shows itself in the devout Christian as the mental state that looks for and expects spiritual guidance and instruction direct from God. Its meaning may be summed up in the word obedient.
- and the Holy Spirit was upon him. One who believes that God communes with man, and who opens the way to such communion by being obedient to every hint received in visions, or dreams, or from the “still small voice,” is guided by the Holy Spirit.
- Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel. Those who experience birth into the Christ consciousness find it necessary to readjust their religious convictions in many respects, discarding those which are no longer convincing in the light of spiritual understanding, and embracing instead ideas that are new to them but compelling in their reasonableness.
- Anna. Anna, the prophetess, who had long been a worshiper in the Temple, represents a certain conservation of spiritual life that has been built up by devotion and faithfulness. This spiritual life is transmitted through many incarnations as an inheritance of the soul and is of great importance in forming the Christ body. Nothing is lost in the evolution of the soul.
The Return to Galilee
2:39And when they had accomplished all things that were according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee,1 to their own city Nazareth. 2:40And the child grew, and waxed strong,2 filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
- they returned into Galilee. When the conscious and subconscious minds (Joseph and Mary) have united in carrying into effect in the body (temple) the freeing power of Spirit (all things that were according to the law of the Lord”), the mind comes down from its state of high exaltation and resumes the practical trend of everyday affairs (“they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth”). Galilee means “circuit,” and in this connection means that the normal round of life was again resumed.
- And the child grew, and waxed strong, filled with wisdom. As man consciously dwells upon the thought of the Christ Spirit within him and submits himself to it as his guiding principle, he grows in spiritual strength and gains true wisdom.
The Boy Jesus in the Temple
2:41And his parents went every year to Jerusalem at the feast of the passover. 2:42And when he was twelve years old, they went up after the custom of the feast; 2:43and when they had fulfilled the days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not; 2:44but supposing him to be in the company, they went a day's journey; and they sought for him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance: 2:45and when they found him not,1 they returned to Jerusalem, seeking for him. 2:46And it came to pass, after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them, and asking them questions: 2:47and all that heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 2:48And when they saw him, they were astonished; and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I sought thee sorrowing. 2:49And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? knew ye not that I must be in my Father's house? 2:50And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. 2:51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and he was subject unto them: and his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
- and when they found him not. Mary and Joseph thought that the boy Jesus was lost, and all of us have gone through this, when our thinking and feeling nature, Mary and Joseph, thought that the boy Jesus was lost. All of us have gone through this when our thinking and feeling nature, Mary and Joseph, thought that they had lost their spiritual awareness, but it is not lost. We can lose sight of it, but even when spiritual awareness is not working or functioning through us on the level of conscious awareness, it is in the temple about our Father's business, nevertheless; so do not ever think you can lose your spiritual awareness. Ed Rabel. New Testament Lectures, the Childhood of Jesus.
Fillmore Bible Society members who contributed to these annotations include Mark Hicks.
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