Christmas Changes as You Grow Older

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, Dec. 12, 2004

I.                   Christmas is the best time of year

A.                At least it should be. 

1.                  Unfortunately, many people find themselves feeling lonely, or depressed, or just generally out of sorts at Christmas time.

B.                 In part, this is because we contrast our actual state with an idealized memory.

1.                  The wonder of Christmas first registers with us when we are very young, and then as adults we find that it’s never quite the same.

a)                  We don’t see the world and the people in it with the same wonder and innocence any more.

II.                Christmas is such a special time of year that we have run out of words to describe it.

A.                It’s more than

1.                  magic

2.                  wonderful

3.                  special

B.                 it’s Christmas

1.                  it’s a feeling that each of us has based on very special remains (or “remnants.”

III.             Remains

A.                We know that freedom of choice in spiritual things is essential

B.                 We also know that we have hereditary evils.

C.                 In order to keep those tendencies to evil in balance, so we can be free

1.                   The Lord gives us “remains” or “remnants.”

a)                  … Remnants … are all the states of affection for good and truth conferred by the Lord on a person from earliest childhood right through to life’s end. (AC 1906)

2.                  Certain special, wonderful things remain with us more than others.

a)                  The tender love expressed in a mother’s caress of her newborn child

(1)               For the child:  first feelings of love and safety

(2)               For the parents:  wonder and holy fear

b)                  A kind word

c)                  A special book

d)                 The first day at school

e)                  A scene from the Tableaux

3.                  We also know, from our own deep feelings, that Christmas, more than any other time stirs our deepest affections, our “remains” and give us a sense of well-being and happiness.

a)                  The more remnants he acquires therefore during his lifetime, or the more good and truth he acquires, the happier and more beautiful the rest of his states seem to be when they actually return. (AC 1906)

4.                  If we aren’t getting the same enjoyment that we used to out of the Christmas season, we have to ask ourselves what is preventing us from enjoying those early states.

a)                  Later on, when he grows up, this good, innocent, and peaceful state of early childhood departs from him little by little; and insofar as he is introduced into the world, he enters into its pleasures and delights, and so into evils, and the heavenly things or the goods of early childhood start to be dispersed (AC 1906:2)

IV.             First impressions are the strongest

A.                Our earliest Christmas memories are the best

1.                  Newness

2.                  Innocence

a)                  Not involved in shopping, cleaning, preparing, paying the bills

B.                 Each subsequent year

1.                  Sophistication and cares of the world

2.                  some of the shine wears off

a)                  Familiarity

b)                  Greed about gifts

c)                  Worry about finding the “right” gift – and paying for it.

d)                 Children growing up and moving away

(1)               Starting their own families and traditions that are strange and unfamiliar

3.                  We begin to long for the wonder of those early states.

a)                  And we become sad

V.                What will bring us back to those innocent states we cherish?

A.                Stop thinking about the externals, the dead shell

1.                  try to concentrate on the essentials

2.                  The reason for all these forms

3.                  The spiritual truth that underlies it all, and gives it such power.

B.                 Allow ourselves to be childlike.

a)                  Yet they still remain, it being by means of these that the states are moderated which a person takes to himself and acquires later on. (AC 1906:2)

2.                  To leave all our troubles and criticisms outside

(1)               To listen to the beautiful words that describes the Lord birth on earth.

(2)               Sing hymns that allow us to communicate our affections.

(3)               To watch with innocent wonder as those words come to life before us.

LUK 18:16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. AMEN.

 


First Lesson: ISA 9:2-7

(ISA 9:2-7) The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined. {3} You have multiplied the nation And increased its joy; They rejoice before You According to the joy of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. {4} For You have broken the yoke of his burden And the staff of his shoulder, The rod of his oppressor, As in the day of Midian. {5} For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle, And garments rolled in blood, Will be used for burning and fuel of fire. {6} For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. {7} Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. Amen.

Second Lesson: MAT 1:18-25

(Mat 1:18-25) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. {19} Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. {20} But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. {21} “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” {22} So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: {23} “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” {24} Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, {25} and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS. Amen.

Third Lesson: AC 1906:1,2

1906. … Remnants … are all the states of affection for good and truth conferred by the Lord on a person from earliest childhood right through to life’s end. These states are stored away within him for the use of his life after death, for in the next life all the states of his life return one after another and at that time they undergo modification through the states of good and truth which the Lord has conferred on him. The more remnants he acquires therefore during his lifetime, or the more good and truth he acquires, the happier and more beautiful the rest of his states seem to be when they actually return. The truth of this may become clear to anyone if he gives the matter careful consideration. At birth no one of himself possesses any good at all, but is wholly defiled with hereditary evil. Everything good flows in, such as his love for parents, nursemaids, and playmates, this influx being from innocence. These are the gifts which flow in from the Lord through the heaven of innocence and peace, which is the inmost heaven, and this is the manner in which they are imparted to him during early childhood.

[2] Later on, when he grows up, this good, innocent, and peaceful state of early childhood departs from him little by little; and insofar as he is introduced into the world, he enters into its pleasures and delights, and so into evils, and the heavenly things or the goods of early childhood start to be dispersed. Yet they still remain, it being by means of these that the states are moderated which a person takes to himself and acquires later on. Without them he cannot possibly be truly human, for states in which evil desires or any evils occur, if not moderated by means of states in which the affection for good is present, would be more dreadful than those of any animal. Those states of good are what are called remnants, which are conferred by the Lord and implanted in a person’s natural disposition, this being done when the person is not aware of it. Amen.

 


Copyright General Church of the New Jerusalem 1982 - 2008
Author:  Rev. James P. Cooper, M.Div
Page updated October 21, 2008