The Christmas Matrix- presented by Ian Keal

For the QnA Session Related to this post go to…

The Emmaus Rd QnA: The Christmas Matrix

The Christmas story can be viewed as a gateway into observing the infinite ways in which the Lord reaches out to us and draws us toward Him and His Heavenly Kingdom. Underlying all the beautiful imagery captured in our imaginations are golden threads of celestial and spiritual loves and truths just waiting to be unwrapped. It is my hope that what I offer here may serve to nurture what we already know and love as well as encourage others to lay their own gifts of insights and affections before the feet of our Lord.

“I will give you a new heart and a new spirit. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My Statutes”   Ezekiel 36: 26, 27.

“With Everlasting Kindness will I have Mercy on thee, saith Jehovah thy Redeemer”.  Isaiah 54:8

We all know that there are three elements to our existence. A celestial, spiritual & natural. A will, an understanding and a state in which these can be in union and hence allowing us to be of service to others. The Word and the Heavenly Doctrines supply us with never ending opportunities for growth. There are things that we can know as well as things that are beyond our finite abilities to comprehend. The latter serve as a reminder of our limitations.

Do we really know what Infinite Love is?

In light of the passage above from Isaiah consider the following.

AC 1594 [5]

From what has been said we can see that what principally disjoins the external man from the internal is the love of self; and that what principally unites them is mutual love, which love is never possible until the love of self recedes, for these are altogether contrary to each other. The internal man is nothing else than mutual love.

Man’s very spirit or soul is the interior man that lives after death; and it is organic, for it is adjoined to the body while the man is living in this world. This interior man, that is, the soul or spirit, is not the internal man; but the internal man is in it when mutual love is in it. The things that are of the internal man are the Lord’s; so that it may be said that the internal man is the Lord.

The Creator of the universe has given us the gift of life. And all he asks in return is that we come home to Him and live in His Kingdom by being awake to the process. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. But how often do we take this gift for granted?

So, what does the Christmas story offer in the way of giving us insights into our own behavior and reactions when He asks us to begin a journey to a promised land?

Or when He asks us to pay attention the nature of our loves?


Luke 1:26-38:

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from 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; and the name of the virgin was Mary.

28 And the angel coming in to her said, Hail, thou who art graced! The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.

29 But when she saw him she was disturbed by his word, and reasoned with herself what manner of greeting this was.

30 And the angel said to her, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found grace with God.

31 And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus.

32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give to Him the throne of His father David.

33 And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.

34 But Mary said to the angel, How shall this be, since I know not a man?

35 And the angel answering said to her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that which shall be born of thee Holy shall be called the Son of God.

36 And behold, thy kinswoman Elizabeth, she has also conceived as on in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.

37 For with God not any saying shall be impossible.

And how does Mary react?

Is there any love of self here?

38 And Mary said, Behold, the maidservant of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy Word. And the angel departed from her.


Be it unto me according to the prophecy in His “Word”. According to Everything He said in His Entire “Word”.

Perhaps Mary was thinking about the prophecy …

Isaiah 7:14

“The Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call His name Immanuel (God with us).”

Was this complete acceptance of the angel’s message also the moment of conception?

“It is of angelic wisdom to perceive without ratiocination” AC 1385.

Mary just placed her gold, frankincense and myrrh at the feet of her creator, devoid of any proprial wishes or reasonings on her part. In a state of complete freedom, she chose to embrace what she was hearing.

How many other stories from the Word have we heard where we have been asked to “conceive” of a new way of thinking about ourselves and others, and immediately our proprium tries to intervene with selfish motives, excuses and ends.

Did Mary just put her foot on the first rung of Jacob’s ladder, or is she already at the top?

What does Mary’s reaction speak to in your heart?


Matthew 1:18-25

18 And the birth of Jesus Christ was thus: His mother Mary, being betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, was found with child from the Holy Spirit.

19 And Joseph her husband, being just, and not willing to expose her to public infamy, intended to send her away privately.

20 And while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, fear not to take to thee Mary thy wife, for that which is begotten in her is from the Holy Spirit.

21 And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.

22 And all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was declared by the Lord through the prophet, saying,

23 Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

24 And Joseph, being awakened from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had ordered him, and took unto him his wife,

25 And knew her not, until she brought forth her firstborn Son; and he called His name Jesus.

As with Mary, Joseph simply obeyed.

How would you react?

Compare Joseph’s obedience to the story of Moses’s reaction when the Lord asks him to go back to Egypt and confront Pharaoh. He asks us to go back to the Egypt that we have created from our own self-centered thoughts and desires and to confront the hellish proprium.

What other stories from the Word come to mind for you as you ponder Joseph’s response?


A shepherd is “One who feeds or teaches and leads to the good of charity” AC 4713.

One who leads to the good of charity through the truth of faith. AC 6426.

Evening and night signify the last time of the church. TCR 764

Night in the Word signifies the deprivation of love and wisdom. HH 155.

Night is when man is in mere falsities from evil. AC 8211 [11].

It is a time of famine for the human race.

Luke 2:6-20

6 And it came to pass, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should bring forth;

7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling-clothes, and laid Him in the manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, and keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And behold, the angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they feared with great fear.

10 And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people.

11 For to you is born today a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.

12 And this shall be the sign to you: you shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling-clothes, laid in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 Glory in the highest to God, and on earth peace, good will among men.

15 And it came to pass, that after the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the men, the shepherds, said one to another, Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this saying that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.

16 And they came in haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe laid in the manger.

17 And when they had seen, they made known abroad the saying which was spoken to them concerning this little Child.

18 And all who heard marveled at those things which were spoken to them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all things which they had heard and seen, as it was spoken to them.

Where did the shepherds return to? …..The manger?

Hope and Joy would have taken me back there.

Where does this story take your heart?



Matthew 2:1 & 2

1 And when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came Magi from the east to Jerusalem,

2 Saying, Where is He who is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.

AC 3240

And Jokshan begat Sheba and Dedan. That this signifies the derivations from the first class, is evident from the representation of Jokshan and of his sons Sheba and Dedan, concerning whom something will be said in what follows. As here there are mere names, and the states and derivations of the Lord’s spiritual church are signified by them, the nature of such states and derivations in general must be declared.

The celestial church differs from the spiritual church in this respect:

Those who are of the celestial church, and are called celestial, are in love, that is to say they are in the good and truth of love;

while those who are of the spiritual church, and are called spiritual, are in faith, that is, they are in the good and truth of faith.

The good which the celestial have is that of love to the Lord, and their truth is that of love to the neighbor; whereas the good which the spiritual have is that of charity toward the neighbor, and their truth is that of faith, insofar as this truth is doctrine concerning charity. This shows that the Lord’s spiritual kingdom, as well as His celestial kingdom, has good and truth, but with much difference.

[2] Be it known moreover that they who are in each kingdom are distinguished among themselves by good and truth, for the reason that there are some who are more in good and others who are more in truth. From this then come the derivations, that is, the derivations of good and the derivations of truth. In the Lord’s spiritual kingdom the derivations of good are what are represented by the sons of Jokshan who are named in this verse; but the derivations of truth in this kingdom are what are represented by the sons of Midian who are named in the following verse. Now as there are two classes of the spiritual (those who are more in good, and those who are more in truth), they have therefore two kinds of doctrinals, namely, those of charity and those of faith; doctrinals of charity for those who are in the good of faith and are here signified by the sons of Jokshan; but doctrinals of faith for those who are in the truth of faith and are signified by the sons of Midian.

[3] Sheba and Dedan are those who constitute the first class, that is, those who in the Lord’s spiritual kingdom are in the good of faith, and who have doctrinals of charity.

AC 3249

Eastward to the land of the east. That this signifies to the good of faith, is evident from the signification of “the east” and the “land of the east,” which will be treated of in what follows. The good of faith which is signified by the “land of the east,” is no other than that which in the Word is called charity toward the neighbor; and charity toward the neighbor is nothing else than a life according to the Lord’s commandments.

That this is signified by the “land of the east” may be seen above (n. 1250); therefore they who were in the knowledges of the good of faith were called “sons of the east.” The land of the sons of the east was Aram of Syria. (That Aram or Syria represents the knowledges of good, may be seen above, n. 1232, 1234; and that Aram Naharaim, or Syria of the rivers, represents the knowledges of truth, n. 3051.)

And as by the “Syrians” or “sons of the east” were signified those who were in the knowledges of good and truth, they were preeminently called the “wise,” as in the first book of Kings, where it is said of Solomon: The wisdom of Solomon was multiplied above the wisdom of all the sons of the east (1 Kings 4:30); and as in Matthew, where it is said of those who came to Jesus when He was born: Wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him (Matt. 2:1-2).

For in Syria were the last remains of the Ancient Church, and therefore in that land there still remained the knowledges of good and truth, as can also be seen from Balaam, who not only adored Jehovah, but also prophesied concerning the Lord, and called Him the “Star out of Jacob, and the Scepter out of Israel” (Num. 24:17).

AE 324

[9] That “incense” and “frankincense” signify spiritual good, and “burning incense” worship acceptable because of that good, and therefore hearing and reception by the Lord, can be seen from the following. In Isaiah: A troop of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and of Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and frankincense; and they shall proclaim the praises of Jehovah (Isa. 60:6). Here the Lord’s coming is treated of; the “troop of camels” and the “dromedaries of Midian and Ephah” signify the knowledges of truth and good in abundance; “all they from Sheba shall come” signifies from the knowledges of genuine truth and good (that “Sheba” signified such knowledges, see Arcana Coelestia, n. 1171, 3240); “gold and frankincense,” which they shall bring, signify worship from spiritual good that is from celestial good; “gold” signifying celestial good, and “frankincense” spiritual good. Because worship from these is signified it is said, “and they shall proclaim the praises of Jehovah;” “proclaiming the praises of Jehovah” signifying the proclamation of good tidings respecting the Lord, and worship of Him.

[10] In Matthew: The wise men from the east opened their treasures, and offered gifts to the newborn Lord, gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2:11).

“The wise men from the east” also signified those who are in the knowledges of truth and good; the worship of such from celestial good, spiritual good, and natural good is signified by “they offered gold, frankincense, and myrrh;” for “gold” signifies celestial good, “frankincense” spiritual good, and “myrrh” natural good.

That these had such a signification was still known to many in the east, therefore they were also called “sons of the east,” by whom in the Word those who are in the knowledges of truth and good are meant (see Arcana Coelestia, n. 3249, 3762), for the knowledge of correspondences had remained among them;

therefore that they might testify their joy of heart they offered such things as signified every good from first to last;

and this is what was predicted in Isaiah, that they “were to come from Sheba, and bring gold and frankincense, and proclaim the praises of Jehovah” (of which just above).

AC 3268 [2]

That by Nebaioth and Kedar are represented the things that belong to the spiritual church, especially among the Gentiles, namely its goods and derivative truths, is evident in Isaiah: The abundance of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and frankincense, and they shall proclaim the praises of Jehovah.

All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee they shall come up with acceptance on Mine altar (Isa. 60:6-7) which in the supreme sense is said of the Lord, and in the relative sense of His kingdom. The “flocks of Kedar” denote spiritual good (that a “flock” is spiritual good may be seen above, n. 343, 415, 2566); the “rams of Nebaioth” denote spiritual truth (that a “ram” is spiritual truth may be seen above, n. 2833).

Matthew 2:8

8 And sending them to Bethlehem, he said, Go and search earnestly for the young Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I also may come and worship Him.

The Herodian proprium attempting to deceive for the purposes of love of self

Matthew 2:9-11

9 And when they had heard the king they departed; and lo, the star which they saw in the east went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.

10 And having seen the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

11 And when they had come into the house, they found the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented to Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

The Wise men, Sons of the East, did not need angelic messengers to be told of the Lord’s birth. Their love for the internal sense of the Word opened their spiritual eyes so that they could see the star of good and truth. See AR 51, AE 72 & 88.

They journeyed, from Syria, from Kedar (Arabia) and from Sheba bringing representatives of their loves, their wisdom, and their uses. The Star first led them to Jerusalem to represent the emptiness of the Israelitish church. Then it led them to Bethlehem, the House of Bread. Love to the Lord.

They come into the house. They kneel before the infant Lord and lay at His feet the Celestial of the Spiritual in the Natural.  Their Internal, Interior and External. The infant Lord places his foot on Jacob’s ladder, and begins His journey toward the Glorification of the Divine Human, extending an Eternal connection to us in his written Word.

The Lord sends angels to us in His Word and He gives us a promise that new loves can be conceived and born in our lives.

Matthew 2:12-15.

12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed into their own country by another way.

His Word reveals to us new paths. We must flee from our Herodian proprium and return to the Lord via a different “way”.

Mutual love Is the “Way” to journey closer to the Lord and others.

13 And when they were departed, lo, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph, saying, Arise and take the young Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt, and be there until I tell thee; for Herod is about to seek the young Child to destroy Him.

14 And when he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt,

15 And was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was declared of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called My Son.

The Herodian proprium seeks to kill new loves for what is Heavenly and loving toward other; Everlasting Kindness and Compassion. The letter of the Word is the sword which we can use to turn away what is not from Him.

We need to put our foot on the ladder and start climbing back to the Lord, and away from self love.


The Christmas story of mutual love is there for us to use, whenever it is needed. It is a matrix that draws all other stories from the Word into a unified whole. It is a story of seeing who the Lord is and seeing who he wants us to become. A story of awakening from sleep to see the qualities represented by Mary, Joseph, Shepherds and Wise Men, which can be aroused and brought to life in all of us.

“With Everlasting Kindness will I have Mercy on thee, saith Jehovah thy Redeemer”. Isaiah 54:8

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all to Myself. John 12: 32

What are we willing to lay at the Lord’s feet?

AE 324[10]

… therefore that they might testify their joy of heart, they offered such things as signified every good, from first to last


This was inspired by the short film: The Christ Child: A Nativity Story which you can watch here:

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Kirsten Schoenberger
Kirsten Schoenberger
3 days ago

Thank you so much, Ian, for this wonderful presentation. I was drawn to the statement that “The internal man is nothing else than mutual love” and “…so that it may be said that the internal man is the Lord”. There is so much to work with here. Even though I didn’t join the QandA session, I watched it afterwards. Such a great insights there! Thank you again for giving us a place to see the Lord’s presence within the group.

Liz Coggins
Liz Coggins
15 days ago

Thank you very much Ian, I love how you’ve brought this together – the Teachings, the Writings, and your insights and pondering. I found it very meaningful – so closely following Christmas, and at this time in the world. I have really enjoyed it.

Erika Brown
Erika Brown
16 days ago

Thanks for this Ian, it was very enriching to follow what you offered. It resonated with what I have been wondering about recently about the Joseph in us. I have been thinking of Joseph as the more external parts of us that are perceived as the author of our regeneration or at times our attempts to own heaven. Joseph wasn’t the actual father of Christ, but he served a role, and exhibited admirable qualities in the literal sense. I’ve been wondering about what in my mind serves as Joseph, the perceived father of my spiritual soul? I guess only time… Read more »