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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Two - The First Initiation - The Birth at Bethlehem

"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth [55] her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (St. Luke, II, 6, 7.)

In these simple words the momentous story begins - a story of such far-reaching consequences that only today are we beginning to register the results. Only today, two thousand years after the event, is the lesson of Christ's life taking formative effect in the imaginations of men; only today is the unique lesson which He came to teach producing the needed changes in the capacity of men to apprehend. Only now are we becoming aware that the historical evidence of His arrival on earth is history itself, and that there is in the world the evidence of two great streams of endeavor or of activity - that which is the stream of the common, separative, unfolding consciousness of man, and that which is the steady application of the message of Christ to current affairs, modifying them, changing them and determining - far more than we can realize - the way that we should go. Christ came in the fullness of time, just as humanity was approaching maturity, and showed us, in Himself and through His life, what a man could be and was.

The Son of God is also the Son of Man! This fact has, perhaps, been forgotten in the emphasis laid upon His divinity. That divinity is there, and nothing can touch or hide it; it is radiance and pure white light. But the manhood is there also, a guarantee to us of our opportunity and of our potentialities, an endorsement of our faith. In the magnetic power, breathed out through the words of the Beloved Apostle as he portrayed Christ as the Son of God Who speaks divinely, we have fallen down in love and adoration before that divinity. But the manhood is emphasized by St. Luke and St. Matthew, just as His life as the Great Server was emphasized by St. Mark. We have fought over the divinity of Christ. Had there been no Gospel but the Gospel of St. [56] John, only His divinity would have been known to us. Christ as man, and what He did and was as man, is not considered by this writer.

Any modern writer, when responsible for a biography of the Christ, would come under most serious criticism (from the theologians and the orthodox) had he omitted these important points. But evidently, in the opinion of the apostle, they were not of paramount importance. It was the Spirit of Christ that was vital and necessary. The other three apostles supplied the setting and the detail, and apparently did much to bring that detail into conformity with the teaching of the past, as to the environment and lives of the past world teachers and saviors, for there is a curious identity in events and occurrences.

We have fought over the detail connected with the phenomenal appearing of Christ, and have overlooked the emphasis laid in three of the initiations upon His words and their meaning. We have taken our stand upon the physical happenings of His life and have struggled to prove the authentic historicity of those physical events, and all the time God Himself speaks, "Hear ye Him."

Another point which is frequently forgotten is that, in so coming to earth and taking human incarnation, God testified to His faith in the divinity which is in man. God had sufficient confidence in men and in their reaction to world conditions so that He gave His Son to demonstrate the possibility to man and thus save the world. In this He gave expression to His belief, and His conduct was dictated by that belief. In reverence I would like to say that man's divinity warranted an expression of divinity. So God acted. Dean Inge, when writing upon the works of Plotinus, says very appositely that "the conduct of life rests on an act of faith which begins with an experiment and ends with an experience." These words are true of God and of man. God had such faith in man's innate spirituality - and what is spirituality but the expression, in form, of divinity? - that He ventured on a great [57] experiment which has led into the Christian experience. Faith in Christ! Faith in humanity! Faith in man's responsiveness to the experiment! Faith that the vision given will be transmuted or developed into experience! Such was the faith of God in humanity. The Christian faith, in spite of dogma and doctrine, and in spite of the distortions of the academic theologian and the impositions of a few unintelligent churchmen, has brought together God and man, blended in the Christ, and so presented the truth that each human being can also have faith to venture the experiment and undergo the experience. This vital, dramatic, mystically pictured yet living truth, when grasped by the mind and understood by the heart, will enable each aspirant to the Christian Mysteries to pass through the gateway of the new Birth into light, and walk thenceforth increasingly in that light, for "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." (Prov., IV, 18.) This truth is still a living truth and enriches and colors all our faith.

In this continuity (which is the basis of our faith in the love of God) there have been, as we have seen, many Words sent forth from the Center. Many Sons of God, down the ages, have given to humanity a progressively revealing vision of the "heights of possibility," interpreting God's Plan to the race in terms suited to each age and temperament; The uniformity of their life story, the appearance again and again of the Virgin Mother (whose name is frequently a variation of the name Mary), the similarity in detail of the birth story, all indicate to us the constant re-enactment of a truth, so that from its dramatic quality and its repeated happening, God impresses upon the hearts of men certain great truths which are vital to their salvation.

One of these truths is that the love of God is eternal, and that His love for His people has been steadfast and unalterable. Whenever the time is ripe and the need of the people warrants it, He comes forth for the saving of the souls of men. [58]

Krishna in ancient India proclaimed this truth in the majestic words:

"Whenever there is a withering of the law... and an uprising of lawlessness on all sides, then I manifest Myself.
"For the salvation of the righteous and the destruction of such as do evil; for the firm establishing of the law I come to birth in age after age.
"He who thus perceives My birth and work as divine, as in truth it is... he goes to Me, Arjuna."
- The Bhagavad Gita, Translation of Charles Johnston, IV, 7, 8.

Again and again such teachers have come forth, manifested as much of the divine nature as the racial development warranted, spoken those words which determined the culture and the civilization of the peoples, and then passed on their way, leaving the seed sown, to germinate and bear fruit. In the fullness of time Christ came and, if evolution means anything at all and if the race as a whole has developed and unfolded its consciousness, the message He gave and the life He lived must necessarily sum up all the best in the past, completing and fulfiling it, and proclaim a possible future spiritual culture which will greatly transcend all that the past may have given.

The majority of these great Sons of God were, curiously enough, born in a cave and usually of a virgin mother.

"In regard to the Virgin Birth it is significant that there is no reference to it in the Epistles which form the earliest Christian documents; but, on the contrary, St. Paul speaks of Jesus as 'made of the seed of David according to the flesh' (Romans, I, 3.) that is to say, of the seed of Joseph, David's descendant. The earliest Gospel, that of St. Mark, dating between A.D. 70 and 100, does not mention it; nor does the Gospel of St. John, dating from some time not earlier than A.D. 100. The Book of Revelation, written between A.D. 69 and 93, is silent on the subject, though had the Virgin Birth then been an important tenet of the faith it would undoubtedly have figured in the mystical symbolism of that composition."
- The Paganism in Our Christianity, by Arthur Weigall, p. 42. [59]

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