My name is Solomon Keal. I am a minister for the General Church of the New Jerusalem, which is a Swedenborgian Christian denomination. These are some of my thoughts about the Lord, the symbolic meanings in the Bible, life after death, faith, charity, usefulness, loving the Lord and one's neighbor, the 2nd Coming, Swedenborg's Writings, and other theological stuff.
Monday, March 8, 2010
New Year's Resolutions
Happy New Year! I’m increasingly amazed at how well the two holidays of Christmas and New Year fit together. At Christmastime we hear the story of the Lord’s birth. We are reminded of the beginning of the story of His life on this earth; a story in which Jesus became fully God. The happy ending of that story really comes at Easter, which means that at Christmas the predominant positive emotion is Hope. Hope that the light that has come into the world will grow and fill the world. Hope that the Lord will not only be born in our hearts, but also grow-up in our hearts, and that we will come to accept Him fully in His glorification.
And then a week later at the change of the New Year we have the tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions, which so wonderfully supports the ideas of spiritual growth and regeneration. It’s a time of year when many of us decide to try to change for the better. You may have heard of the concept of being a “Monday morning church”; well at this time a year we could also consider ourselves a “January 1st church”.
So we have the two holidays: First at Christmas we are reminded and inspired that there is hope for us. Then in the New Year we starting applying that truth to our lives so that we can change our will for the better in the process of regeneration... which is a fancy way of saying we make New Year’s Resolutions.
As I was making my New Year’s Resolutions this year, I was struck by how important it was for me in that process to truly understand how humanity works; in the sense of the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as people on earth and in heaven. Through the truths of the Lord’s Second Coming we know that when Jesus Christ was born, His soul was Divine, but His body was from Mary, and that through the process of glorification He became fully God; the One Human God of Heaven and Earth. We also know that angels are humans, and that the Lord wants all humans to become angels through the process of regeneration.
I think I often take those truths for granted. If I didn’t know those truths I could speculate that I might tend to think of the Lord as being somehow limited because He was the Son of Mary. I might think of Him as being limited because He took on hereditary inclinations towards evil. I might even be tempted to think that He didn’t even become fully God... He couldn’t have! Could He? But if I think about the Lord as no more than the Son of Mary, I am essentially admitting that I don’t believe that the Lord could be born human and then become fully God. And that means I would be admitting that I don’t believe in the process of spiritual regenerative change. If I thought that, then I wouldn’t be understanding the story, which tells us that the Lord saved the Human race BECAUSE He took on the natural consciousness of Jesus Christ.
This is a story of hope because it is indicating that we too can rise above our hereditary inclinations towards evil. The Lord’s life was a model for us. We can be born again! We can become angels, just as Jesus became fully God.
It’s also important to remember that God Himself was born on earth. He didn’t send His Son to earth who later also became God. Jesus Christ WAS God. This is similar to the fact that the Writings indicate that we are destined for heaven. Heaven is not simply a pleasant option for our afterlife, heaven is what we were created for. Heaven is our home. The Lord created us as potential angels. This means that the changes needed for us to become angels are therefore not as hard as we might think, because really we become who we were intended to be (angels), much like Jesus became who He was intended to be (God).
Now if we want to get technical, there were of course pretty major differences internally between the process of glorification that Jesus went through and the process of regeneration that we go through. For example, we don’t start with a Divine soul. Also, the Lord didn’t have to force Himself against His will to apply the truth, the way we do, because He had a Divine will. Jesus did have some pretty major advantages.
But the external process is still the same. The Lord still had to learn truths and apply them to life, just like we do. The Lord still had a hereditary “old will” that had to be replaced with a “new will” from God, just like we do. The Lord depended on “remains” or states of love that inspired Him, just like we do. Who knows, maybe the Lord also made New Year’s Resolutions?
In the process of making New Year’s Resolutions, we have the opportunity to begin to put off the “Mary human” just like Jesus did. We need to give up things that don’t serve us in getting to heaven. This can be a life-long process. But a life-long journey is made up of many little steps, and making New Year’s Resolutions can be some of those steps. Even if they seem trivial and material, such as vowing to not eat sugar, the discipline involved is a spiritual change, or can lead to a spiritual change. Shunning things that are bad for our natural bodies is good practice for shunning things that are bad for our spiritual bodies.
Sometimes we don’t succeed in achieving our New Year’s Resolutions. Sometimes we do. Forward progress in our spiritual journey is not made by being perfect, but by trying again and again. The Lord went through similar cycles while on earth. He fluctuated during His whole life between states of glorification (being united with His Divine soul), and states of humiliation (being distant from His Divine soul). Even to the last hour of His life, He was tempted. This is encouraging for us, because it means that we don’t have to get it right the first time. We just need to keep trying. We fall down, and then we pick ourselves back up.
There are times in our lives when the Lord seems to be distant, (like Jesus’ states of humiliation), and there are times when He seems close (like His states of glorification). It’s fortunate, or perhaps Providential that in the dark cold of winter we have a seemingly arbitrary change of our calendar year which can remind us of this cycle, this spiritual cycle, this human cycle.
May your New Year bring you closer to the Lord and may He bring you increased hope and happiness in your spiritual journey!