He is saying, "In the very fountain and Cause of all existence was the Light, or the great holy creative Thought in definite form. This light emanated from God in visible forms and thus was not only in, but also with God, surrounding the most divine Being, whereby the cause for God's later embodiment within a man can already be seen."
The primordial Light and Existence of God Itself now took on flesh, and in a fully equal form of man, being Itself Man, came to Its people who are from It, in order to enlighten them anew in their night, and give them back to Its primordial Light.
Divine Wisdom, the Son of the Father, descended to earth once again to become man, but this time by way of physical embodiment according to the earthly laws of conception.
Through revelation, the Word is newly unveiled, unspoiled by human interpretation, simple and clear. This new Word which Christ Jesus himself gave to us for the first time unveils the Bible, and the wisdom of God, the Father. Indeed Father and Son are one, just as light cannot be separated from its flame (its father), and the light that goes out from it is the son shining into all infinity. "Who sees me sees the Father, for I and the Father are one. The Father is within me, and I within the Father."
Matthew begins the story of Jesus' birth more simply by saying: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise . . ." Mary, his mother, was betrothed to Joseph, but before their marriage she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit, so Joseph being a man of principle and at the same time wanting to save her from the embarrassment of public exposure, decided to have her sent quietly away where no one would know of the birth. Not being himself involved, he decided to have the contract of their marriage put aside, in the kindest way he knew.
But as he slept an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary home with you as your wife, for it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (Jesus means "the Lord will save.")
Rising from sleep with unquestioning obedience, Joseph did as the angel had directed him, and took Mary home to be his wife, but fully respected her virginity as Mother of the Messiah, until the child should be born. The churches think that both continued to live a celibate life but there is no conclusive statement to this effect in the Scripture.
Joseph's silence became a witness of Mary's innocence, since he knew of her chastity, and dumbfounded by what had happened, concealed by his silence the mystery which he could not fully understand.
Joseph realized too that he had received a portion above his brethren, for Jesus during his helpless infancy and boyhood, was to be his sole care and portion. The boy and his mother were to look up to him under God's providence as their guide and support. He fully understood, once the Angel of the Lord had revealed to him this secret, that no man under heaven was so privileged as himself. For beneath his lowly roof he now held the new Parents of restored humanity foreshown to Adam and Eve in the Garden. On his head were the accumulated blessings of old, prophesied by Jacob to the first Joseph: "The blessings of heaven above, with the blessings of the deep that lieth beneath, until the desire of the everlasting hills shall come."
The glory of the Second Eve is that her life from this period to the ascension of her Son will be identified with his.
Around that time a decree went forth from the Emperor Augustus that a general registration should take place throughout the empire, the first of its kind under the Roman authority. It was necessary for everyone to return to his own town for this purpose, and as Joseph had come from Bethlehem, the city of David, he prepared to make the journey from Nazareth, which would take three or four days, to the cradle of his ancestry at Bethlehem. Women were not required to register, and Joseph wondered what to do. But he left the matter up to the Lord, and as he was saddling the donkey to leave, he knew he could not leave Mary alone so near to the time of giving birth, so he put her upon the donkey, and they set off. This was in accord with the angel's statement that God would give to this Child the throne of David, his father.
In the expectancy of great things about to occur, their journey held a sense of timelessness, as though passing through layers of Space, between one dimension and another. Both knew that their lives would never again be simple as other persons, so it seemed that Time stood still on these days.
The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is three or four days journey, taking the direct road across the plain of Jesreel, the mountains of Samaria and Judea, by way of Jerusalem and the plain of Rephaim. This was the regular caravan route.
Ordinary people traveled on foot, but it is rare in Judea not to find an onager with each family. This indefatigable and docile animal, similar to the donkey, lives on little; it is at once the hackney and the beast of burden for the poor.
The travelers would halt near a well beside the road, under the shade of some tree. Or at sunset in the rainy season, they would seek at the entrance of the villages the caravanserai which served as a shelter to travelers and their beasts. At dawn the journey was resumed, the travelers singing psalms which spoke of their prophets and the house of Yahweh. Thus the end of the journey was reached by easy stages.
There is an Apocryphal story that says Mary felt her time upon her just before they arrived at Bethlehem, and that Joseph took her down from the donkey, finding a cave into which he lead her, then went inquiring for a midwife. And as he went he was astonished to see that all things seemed to have stopped in their movement as though the whole world stood still, transfixed.
According to the story, he met a woman coming down from the mountains who questioned him and he told her he was inquiring for a Hebrew midwife, and she replied that she herself was such. So she went along with him and stood at the cave. And behold it was all filled with light greater than the light of lamps and candles, like unto the light of the Sun itself, and the infant was already called for purification and wrapped up in swaddling clothes in the arms of his mother. Then the midwife cried out, "How glorious a day is this wherein mine eyes have seen this extraordinary sight." And as she touched the infant she became cold, and went forth praising God.
The mystic legends add, furthermore, that during this joyous travail of Mary all the birds were stationary in their flight; the sheep near water did not drink; the cattle in the stable fell upon their knees -- all nature was transfixed in ecstasy, so "gracious and so hallowed" was the time.
This is but an allegorical way of saying that on the first Holy Night, through the power of that mysterious Star which focused its rays upon the planet, the entire vibratory rate was lifted and lightened in preparation for the coming of that glorious Spirit, Christ Jesus.
There is an esoteric reason why Jesus was born in Bethlehem, for a magnetic center exists between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, through which powerful spiritual currents are passing into the heart of earth. For thousands of years before the Christian Era, the wise men and teachers of all Mystery Schools were helping to prepare this holy place for the transcendent work of the Christ; for be it remembered that in their innermost center all Schools of eternal truth work together in unity and harmony to lift and enlighten mankind. The "field of Bethlehem" is a center of great spiritual power, and at the time of the Birth was guarded by the Raim ("seeing ones," or Initiate-Shepherds).
The chant of "peace on earth, good will toward men," sung to a peculiar vibratory rate on Holy Night by the angelic hosts and the Illumined Ones among mankind, is infusing a new spiritual potency into the earth, making it easier each year for the masses to realize brotherhood, altruism, and fellowship. It also aids the pioneers to awaken into active manifestation the powers of the newborn Christ within.
En route to their destination, Mary and Joseph had to pass by Jerusalem, the great soul of their nation. The city of Jerusalem rests on a rocky crest amid somewhat desolate surroundings, but as one follows the road southward toward Bethlehem, only six miles away, the scene changes to become one of charming pastoral beauty, with sheep grazing in the green meadows. The earth at this season is covered with grass and flowers from the first rains, and the flocks live on this earthly herbage.
The peaceful little town of Bethlehem lies above the plain of Rephaim, in the very heart of the Judean mountains. It occupies the summit of two hills, joined one to the other in the form of a crescent. Deep valleys isolate it on all sides, the most fertile one being toward the south between the two points of the crescent. There is a steep slope, so that the walls of the terraces built to bank up the soil give it the aspect of a vast and verdant amphitheater. The hillside is dotted with lush-growing vines, olives and figs, as well as almond and carob trees.
The field of the shepherds is still there; flocks feed in winter under the olives, as in the days of Jesus, in the fields where the grass still grows green and the anemones flower. Shepherds in the East represent the lower class of the agricultural population, for they are not the farmer, but work for him. Yet it was here the youthful David had watched over the flocks of his father Jesse, before being called to the royal house of Saul. Here occurred the romance of Ruth and Boaz, among the fields of grain.
Shepherds may still be seen there today, their heads covered with a long black veil, a sheepskin on their shoulders, barefoot or shod in sandals, with a staff of oak or sycamore in their hand as they watch from dark to dawn, seated on a rock around large fires.
Bethlehem shares with Jerusalem today the honor of being the most sacred spot in Christendom. Worship has never left the place where shone the brightness of the birthday dawn of Christ.
At the end of a long straggling street lined with low flat- roofed houses is the shrine to which millions of pilgrims since Jesus' time have turned their steps, and the Church of the Nativity was erected there in 327 A.D. over the grotto where Jesus is believed to have been born. This church is the oldest monument of Christian architecture in the world. Above the place where the manger-cradle is supposed to have stood, there is now a marble trough placed in commemoration.
On Christmas evening the people of Bethlehem flock to the church of St. Helena, of which only the ruins remain, and in its desolate crypt they pray as had the shepherds, their ancestors, who were the first worshippers of our Lord. The women are seen from afar, clad in their long white veils, seated in groups on the broken walls beneath the shade of the circling olive trees, recall the mysterious beings who heralded the advent of Jesus. The crowd has an air of cheerfulness and calm which harmonizes well with the memories which fill the plain, and with the Eastern light which colors the whole and gives to the sterile rock itself an appearance of richness and of life.
The population of Bethlehem is now estimated at around 5,000 though perhaps only about 2,000 at Jesus' time.
The Bible does not say Jesus was born in a cave. It only says there was no room at the inn, and this does not mean the inn was inhospitable, for the town must have been overcrowded with the numbers of incoming registrants, both man and beast, while relatives' homes were filled to overflowing. There is no doubt Joseph had friends and relatives here, and he knew the country- side well from boyhood memories. He must have felt the chaotic inn and the crowded one-room homes were no place for bringing forth this precious One, and sought a quieter place where this event could take place privately, both for Mary's sake and the Child's.
Joseph knew that there were caves in the hillside used as stables where animals were kept, for here he was able to shelter their own donkey and provisions. So he took Mary up and made a certain stable comfortable for her. The child Jesus was to be born in this common lowly place -- but here too was found the great simplicity and lack of pretense which were to mark the life of the Great Lord Jesus. Thus, Mary "brought forth her first- born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger."
St. Jerome explains: "Every only-begotten is a first-born though not every first-born is an only son. 'First-born' does not mean him after whom came others, but him before whom no child was born."
When Joseph, with tender and loving care, had prepared the crude manger as best he could, he had departed a short distance away and knelt to gaze upon the beloved Virgin with profound awe. She too was kneeling in prayer and so absorbed in ecstatic visions that from time to time, according to legendary records, she was lifted above the earth and lost to sight in the glory of light that surrounded her and extended like a bridge of gold from heaven to earth. Down this ray came multitudes of chorusing angels till the air was vibrant with their shimmering movement and the wonder of their triumphant canticles. At the mystic hour of midnight the luminous aura of the Holy Babe shone more brilliant than all the light of earth as the blessed mother, together with Joseph and the hosts of angels, knelt in rapture before the majesty of his Presence.
In Mary's words of revelation concerning the Nativity:
"When I gave birth to him, I brought him forth without pain, just as I had also conceived him with such great joy of soul and body that in my rapture my feet did not feel the ground on which they were standing. And as he had filled my soul with happiness on entering my body, so did he again come forth in such a way that my whole body and soul exulted with indescribable joy and in such a way that virginity was not impaired.
"How overwhelmed I was when I perceived and gazed at his beauty, and realized that I was not worthy of such a Son."
So she was the first of all human beings to look at that mid- night hour, upon the face of her Babe and Savior. What ecstasy must have filled her soul, as the light of that countenance that so many generations had longed to behold made all bright for her and her saintly guardian, Joseph, in that hillside cavern. These two were the first worshippers, as they were to be the two inseparable companions and faithful Disciples of the Divine Master -- our great Teacher of the Manger and Cross.
The next to be summoned to the presence of the new-born King, the Day Star of Israel and Hope of the World, were shepherds guarding their flocks through the night in a nearby field. Some of these are believed to have been certain Shepherd-Initiates with spiritual vision.
"And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them, and they feared with a great fear. But the Angel said to them: 'Fear not. For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. And this will be a sign to you. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.' Suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will!"
The unseen world thrilled at the birth of Jesus. Nothing is accomplished here below but what is decreed on high. Terrestrial phenomena are the effects of heavenly and impenetrable causes; all the future, all the mystery of this cradle, were in the two words which were to fill time and space: Glory and Peace -- glory to God and peace to man.
When the angels went away from them into heaven, says St. Luke, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
After this the shepherds also came and made a fire, exceedingly rejoicing, for they had heard the heavenly Host praising and adoring. They appeared on the hillside and it seemed that both the tongues of angels and men united to adore and magnify God on account of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. These simple shepherd folk were the first to be called to the knowledge of Christ on earth -- the first "courtiers" of the new Savior -- King!
So it was that the beautiful and wondrous spirit whom we know as Jesus was born into a pure and passionless body. His body was the best that could be produced on Earth, and the task of Jesus, in this embodiment, was to care for and to evolve it to the highest possible degree of perfection as preparation for the great purpose it was to serve.