A Miracle According to Order
Lessons for Christmas followed by a brief Address
Rev. James P. Cooper
Lesson:  Preparation

(Luke 1:26-38)  Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, {27} to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. {28} And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" {29} But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. {30} Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. {31} "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. {32} "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. {33} "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." {34} Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" {35} And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. {36} "Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. {37} "For with God nothing will be impossible." {38} Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

(Luke 1:39-56)  Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, {40} and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. {41} And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. {42} Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! {43} "But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? {44} "For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. {45} "Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord." {46} And Mary said: "My soul magni-fies the Lord, {47} And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. {48} For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. {49} For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. {50} And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. {51} He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. {52} He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. {53} He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. {54} He has helped His servant Israel, In re-membrance of His mercy, {55} As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever." {56} And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.  Amen.

Lesson:  The Birth

(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 exam-ple, 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.

(Luke 2:1-7)  And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. {2} This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. {3} So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. {4} Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, {5} to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. {6} So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. {7} And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  Amen.

Lesson:  Adoration

(Luke 2:8-20)  Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. {9} And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. {10} Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. {11} "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. {12} "And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." {13} And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: {14} "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" {15} So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." {16} And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. {17} Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. {18} And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. {19} But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. {20} Then the shepherds re-turned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

(Mat 2:1-12)  Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, {2} saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." {3} When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. {4} And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. {5} So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: {6} 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'" {7} Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. {8} And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also." {9} When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. {10} When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. {11} And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. {12} Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.  Amen.

Address:

    We have gathered here tonight to consider and reflect upon the wonder of the Lord’s birth upon our earth.  Each year we turn back to this wonderful story and enjoy hearing the familiar words yet again.  Each time we hear them, different parts catch our attention, and different memory of Christmases past are brought to life.  Sometimes we are saddened by thoughts of those who are too far away to visit, or those who are now celebrating Christmas in the other world.  We are all moved in different ways at different times.  There is no one who is not affected by the Christmas story, the hymns, and the sphere of the season in some way.
    
    Tonight, let us focus our attention on one aspect of the Christmas story, the miraculous nature of His birth.  A miracle is defined as “an extraordinary event in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause; of such an effect or an event manifesting or considered as a work of God; a wonder, a marvel.”
    
    The Lord’s birth into the world was indeed a miracle, because it surpasses all known human powers, but it was not magic or disorderly because the Lord always works within the laws of order, because they are His own laws.  The laws of order are not laws in the sense of one person or group restricting the activities of another person or group, like traffic laws.  Rather, they are laws in the scientific sense, that is, descriptions of how we have observed that things work.  Thus, the laws of order to not an any way limit God, because they are only a description of how He works in the world to bring all people who desire it into heaven.  Since the laws of order are the description of how the Lord operates in the world, if something appears to be outside of the laws of order, it is not because the Lord is breaking the laws of order, but because our understanding of those laws, and our ability to describe how He operates under all conditions is not yet completely accurate.
    
    The Lord is flowing into our minds every conscious moment of our lives, stimulating every thought we have.  He does this by means of the spirits in the spiritual world.  His truth flows out from Him like the light pours forth from the sun.  The truth is moderated by the spiritual atmospheres so that it can be received by the highest celestial angels.  They receive it in a form adapted to their own lives, qualify it and modify it according to their own particular loves and wisdom, and then pass it on to the angels of the spiritual heaven.  They perform the same service, adding their particular influence and enlightenment, while at the same time moderating the strength of the truth so that it can be received by the angels of the first heaven.  And so the Lord’s Own good and truth are passed down through the heavens, modified and qualified by the angels of the different degrees until they are in such a form and power that they can be received by people on earth without harm.  We sense this inflowing from the Lord as the ideas that pass through our minds during our conscious life in the world.  In the same way that we could not bear to live on the surface of our own sun, so we cannot bear to be spiritually next to the Lord Himself as He is above the heavens.  Just as there must be a great distance and many layers of atmosphere to protect us from the power of our own life-giving sun, there are spiritual atmospheres and three heavens to prepare the truth and good from the Lord for our reception.
    
    In this way, good and truth are born in our minds.  It is symbolic of how the Lord Himself was born into the world of nature.  He “bowed the heavens” and came down, that is, the Divine Itself flowed out from itself above the heavens, and passed through each of the heaven, moderating itself, cooling itself, making itself suitable for life in the world, taking on from the angels the imprint of their human experience, until that Divine life was able, with Mary’s consent and cooperation, to enter into the interiors of a human mind and begin the process of building for itself a body suitable for life in the world of nature.
    
    The Lord’s birth was indeed a miracle, because is surpasses human powers, but that does not mean that it broke the laws of order.  His birth into this world is exactly parallel to the process whereby ideas are born in our minds each moment, and it is for this reason that we say that those who truly understand the real meaning of Christmas, those who love and obey the Lord, have Him born in their hearts every day.  Amen.