Christmas Eve Service
An Address by the Rev. James P. Cooper
The Heavenly Doctrines give us an extremely important principle of teaching: that we should not make a philosophical or doctrinal point with immediately illustrating it.
Since the knowledge of and understanding of the nature of God is the most important doctrine of any church, it makes sense for us to illustrate that doctrine.
We also know from the Heavenly Doctrines that the only way that the human mind can learn is by taking information in from the natural world by means of the senses. Even when we read very deep and intellectual books, the ideas contained in the books are still entering our minds through the sense of sight.
Since everything we know comes to us through our senses, it stands to reason that the more senses that we involve, the better we will know something. A teacher understands this when she presents information to the pupil in many different ways, when she combines reading with writing and the spoken word.
Today, people in the business world have come to understand this, and it is becoming more and more common that business reports are accompanied with graphs and other illustrations to help communicate the essential point.
From our lesson, we learned several important things: that the mind needs recreation; that there are many kinds of recreations provided by the governors of the societies when they see that their people need it; and that a prime means of relaxation and entertainment is to see a play.
It's wonderful to see these spiritual principles at work in our world today. The school year has come to an end, many businesses have slowed down or closed, and people are generally in a festive and happy mood. It is also wonderful to think that the cause for all this happiness is the celebration of the Lord's birth into the world on Christmas day. As the pressure of our normal schedule recedes, we may find that we have more time to consider and reflect upon the real meaning of Christmas.
Tonight, it is our purpose to draw all of these things together. We begin with worship to turn our hearts and our thoughts to the Lord whose birth on earth we are celebrating. We will then see carefully presented and beautiful scenes from the Christmas story that will bring pleasure, entertain, and stir memories of happy Christmases in the past. And at the same time our senses will be stirred by these sights and sounds in a special way that will help learn new aspects of the Christmas story, help us to have new insights into its power and meaning in our own lives.
We must remember that the whole process is in the Lord's hands, and under His Divine Providence, and that His government of each human being is according to that person's reception of Him. If we are in a foul, negative state of mind, the tableaux will not have much of a positive effect on us, but if we try to enter in with a sphere of innocence and awe, with memories of Christmases past, if we seek to worship Him, then the Lord will surely enter into our hearts with power and peace.
So let us put aside the worries of the day. Let us put aside, for a little while, all our earthly cares. Let us let our minds and hearts soar free, unencumbered by the weight of cares. Then, as we listen to very familiar story and look at the scenes, the Lord will be able to enter our lives by secret ways known to Him alone. AMEN.
The angel then called the men of his company together, and on the way gave them the following instruction concerning heaven: "In heaven, as in the world, there are foods and drinks; there are feasts and banquets; and with the leading men there are tables spread with sumptuous delicacies and choice and delicious foods wherewith the (mind and spirit) is exhilarated and recreated. There are also sports, public shows, and entertainments of music and song; and all these in the highest perfection" (CL6:5).
Hearing this, the men who had been invited from the city told them the following: i. "There are here days of festivity appointed by the prince, that the mind may be relaxed from the weariness which desire of emulation brings upon some. On these days, in the public places are concerts of music and songs, and outside the city games and shows. At such times, stages are erected in the public places.... Moreover, outside the city there are also theatrical performances by players, representing the varieties of honorableness and virtue characteristic of the moral life; and among them, for the sake of relationship, are also actors." Here one of the ten asked, "why for the sake of relationship?" They answered: "No one of the virtues with its display of honorableness and decorum can be presented in a living way except by things related thereto from the greatest of them to the least. The actors present the least of these up to the point of there being none. But it is established by law that nothing of the opposite, which is called dishonorable or unseemly, shall be exhibited except figuratively and, as it were, remotely. The reason why it is so decreed is because nothing honorable or good in any virtue ever passes over by successive progression to what is dishonorable and evil, but only to the least of that virtue until it disappears; and when it disappears, the opposite begins. Therefore, heaven, where all things are honorable and good, has nothing in common with hell where all things are dishonorable and evil" (CL17).
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