The Nativity of Christ
The 6 April 2000 General Conference
Brethren and Sisters, I welcome you back to the final session of General Conference which marks the beginning not only of our fixed calendar New Year but also - probably for the first time in history - the Hebrew New Year based on the lunar calendar. The sun and the moon are in agreement for once this 6 April! This cannot, I believe, be a matter of coincidence.
Up here in the Scandinavian north we have been experiencing some rather peculiar weather of late. It's been the mildest winter in a century with spring-like and winter-like weather rapidly alternating. Looking out of the window at all the snow and feeling the sub-zero temperatures a day ago you wouldn't have thought that a fortnight before the sun was shining brilliantly on a snow-free landscape with temperatures of up to 14 degrees above zero. It was so warm, in fact, and so dry that I nearly started a forest fire when I was burning the scrub wood in our garden.
When the snow returned a few days ago I felt like withdrawing inside myself. Whereas I had been outside working like a beaver for many hours and thoroughly enjoying myself - inspite of the aches, pains, cuts and exhaustion - I suddenly found myself locked up indoors and feeling like I wanted to hibernate. Only today the sun has returned and revived my spirits.
Much of our ministry of late has been involved in helping people caught up in what I would call "anti-faith" - the diametric opposite of Christianity, which is witchcraft and Satanism. Theirs is a parallel universe, visible and comprehensible to us as believers but ours being completely hidden from them. But yesterday, no doubt by divine providence, I suddenly found myself drawn into the world of atheism and a wholly different world to that of Christianity and its counterpart, Satanism. In a way I was taken back to my early university years when I too was a self-proclaimed atheist.
It all began when I received an email from an atheist who thanked me for an article on our web page about atheism. He was gratified to see that I understood why some people turned against religion and how I deplored the hell-and-damnation reponse of some ministers to those who were once Christians turned atheists. He thanked me for my non-judgmentalism and shared something of how he had become an atheist having been brought up as a nominal Christian.
The more I read his story and others like it I began to see atheism not so much as "anti-Christianity" but as "Ground Zero". It is, if you like, the boundary where Christianity ends and Satanism starts, or vice versa. And the reason I came to this conclusion was because of the stories of those who had not so much abandoned some sort of religious faith (and there were many of those) but because of those who had never really had any in the first place. Their inner world and thought processes were rather special.
Actually, I believe that we are all atheists. Indeed, I think we are all Satanists too. And Christians. There is, within our spirit/body make-up, a dichotomy of opposites - true faith (Christ) and anti-faith (Satan) with a middle no-man's land which I call Atheism, or un-faith. So often I see atheists speaking of "losing faith in faith" which, inspite of being an oxymoron or contradiction in terms, nevertheless reflects that "no-man's land" state of being.
If we are honest with ourselves, we have all at different times - both before we came to Christ (if we were unbelievers at one time) and after - had faith in Christ (or Christ-like principles), reacted in anti-faith to the devil (or devilish principles), and been in the no-man's land of neutrality and atheism. I have, over the last years, read a great deal of writing on the Internet that reflects these three positions and followed their reasoning. Funnily enough, the apologists for all three positions rationalise in a pretty similar manner. The same types of arguments are used by all three propositionists based on experience and logic. This at first surprised me for I supposed, then, that one could actually rationalise almost anything one wanted to and devise sophisticated arguments in their support. And to some extent that is true. This seemed strange at first until I understood that you cannot actually apologise for faith, anti-faith, or un-faith without reference to one or the other two. This is the paradox of the mortal state.
I have always maintained that human beings are walking contradictions for we possess two totally contrary natures - what the scriptures call the "carnal" or "natural" man (our fallen "Adam nature") and the "spiritual" or "Christ-like" man. We are told in the New Testament that there is a war between the two so long as we are mortal beings, even after we have received salvation. Those who have truly received Christ are centred in the spiritual man whereas those who have not are centred in the carnal. In that respect, atheism may be seen as an expression of the carnal. Actually - and I have maintained this a long time too - I don't believe there is such a thing as an "atheist", but that is another matter.
Atheism is really the boundary zone where Christianity and Satanism overlap - it's a grey zone. The atheist rejects God (which makes him a Satanist, because Satan wants us to believe that) as well as being a Christian (because he accepts - if he is a humanist - many of the ethics derived from Christianity). In fact, atheism freely borrows from both belief and anti-belief which, since they are oppoistes, effectively cancell each other out leaving un-belief. They cannot believe in belief - however contradictory that may seen - for they would then have to choose belief or anti-belief.
In many respects an atheist is harder to win for Christ than the Satanist, though in other respects he is easier. The Satanist knows that there are supernatural beings - they worship Satan, and since Satanism, witchcraft, the occult, New Age and all false religion teach a religious dualism, they are forced to believe in the existence of God too, even though the true picture of His characteristics may have been totally distorted. (I should point out that there are some Satanists who say they are atheists, believing in neither God nor the devil, even though this is somewhat contradictory). It is therefore a matter of showing the Satanist what the true God is like, that He has already defeated Satan, and has more power and love. For the atheist it is not so simple for ultimately he only believes in a physical, visible universe without God, Satan or other supernatural agencies. He also has a problem defining such concepts as "love" and "hate" - for him everything (if he is true to his profession of belief) is just a matter of the survival of the fittest and he must explain everything in evolutionary terms. Because of the evidence around him he must do everything in his power to explain why God cannot possibly exist. He has a gargantuan task ahead of him.
God is like a river. The Christian sees that it is flowing into the sea (which is heaven) and simply sails in it, allowing the current to take him to his final destination whilst steering clear of various obstacles like rocks along the way. The Satanist believes the river is flowing in the opposite direction and so devotes his energies sailing against the current and makes no progress very fast. As the river gets higher and higher so the going becomes more and more difficult until in the end he must give up or simply stay where he is. And the atheist doesn't believe the river even exists and so he will explain it away in whatever way he can.
Today is the first day of the year. It is the 2001st anniversary of the birth of Christ. It represents the beginning of spring for us, a new ecclesiatical year, a new cycle of experiences. For five days we have reviewed the past year, drawn conclusions, confessed errors, and set our sights on new targets or refixed them on old ones. Of these five days we have spent two doing absolutely nothing. Having spent 3 April in celebration of the resurrection we have paused and told the Lord: "Father, we have claimed this power through faith in Your Son - now show us what to do with it." So over the last two days we have sought further direction for the Church and ourselves as individuals. And the results have been quite interesting.
For me it began a few nights ago. I awoke in the middle of the night and simply sensed the Lord's presence. I saw no vision, dreamed no dream, received no revelation - I simply sensed that He was there. My room was different too. It seemed new in a way. The Presence also caused me to fear - not the fear that comes from guilt or terror, but the fear that is born of healthy respect for One who is so much greater than us. I saw nothing.
Looking at the baby Yah'shua (Jesus) you probably wouldn't have seen much either but if you were a true believer in Yahweh you would probably have sensed something. Now that sensing involves no great intellectual exercise, no fantastic theologising. Rather, it involves humans coming like simple shepherd folk, watching after their sheep of daily responsibility, simply being awed at the divine presence. Their wish was simply to approach the baby Messiah and gaze at Him. The big thinkers - the three wise men - came later. Together - the shepherds and the kings - they respresent our collective response to the Messiah of Israel and of all people. But if we begin as great thinkers we shall not see the Messiah - we must first of all come as the humble shepherd with nothing to give but our wonderment. Our gifts will be required of us soon enough - Christ will call us to exercise them in His service to be sure - but first must come the silent gazing. I doubt those shepherds asked the Holy Family any questions. I doubt they were toon interested in the babe's weight, eye colour, or the history of their parents, for their attention was given to another dimension. This was Israel's long-awaited Messiah. They were simply glorying in the Shekinah - the Divine Presence. And when you are in that, words lose all their meaning. Indeed, they cannot begin to compare to the experience of simply being in close fellowship with God.
Christ is not an intellectual proposition though His reality has intellectual consequences and ramifications for human thought. No great theological debate took place amongst those shepherds - they did not spar intellectual swords. They simple had complete and utter belief. Why shouldn't they? The angels had told them what to expect and where to go. The high drama of revelation out in those fields was not the end in itself - the consummation of that revelation - the goal of that visionary experience - was simply to BE in the PRESENCE of Almighty God in the flesh.They probably didn't know that the King of the Universe inhabited that little infant's body and such a thought would probably have meant nothing to them anyway. Rather they stood in the divine presence and were glad.
I doubt those wise men said much either, apart from anouncing their gifts and giving their parting warning about Herod's real intents. They too, like the shepherds, gazed and adored, and stood on common ground, their worldly distinctions and honours vapourised before the sunshine of the ultimate, consummate life yet to reveal itself in all its glory.
There must have been something infinitely fresh about that encounter. It was, after all, the first and last of its kind. No other baby would be born in such a way and God would never enter the affairs of humans in such a manner again. No other witnesses would ever be called. No star of Bethelehem would be specially created in the heavens to herald such an event again. This was utterly unique. Moreover, the types of people who came to pay homage to Him in the manger were rather special too - shepherds and kings. We must not let the impact of this symbolism pass us either and indeed if we meditate on it long enough we will see before our vista some amazing truths. So let us pause and do that and discover what gems the Lord would have for us on this our own new nativity day.
The first thing we will notice is that following the revelation of the angelic host of the shepherds they made a spontaneous decision: "Let us go STRAIGHT to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us" (Luke 2:15, NASB). I want you to note that they did not dally, for the Scripture says further: "And them CAME IN HASTE and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby..." (v.16).
This is the important starting point of any revelation which God gives to us. He expects a STRAIGHT decision and a HASTY response. We aren't to dither around. Now those shepherds had concerns - they were out tending sheep. This was the lambing season when the flocks were most vunerable to predators. There were dangers. But they realised that it was MUCH more important to go and see the Messiah. There were no two thoughts - no tug of conscience - for if God had told them to do something, then He would also take care of their other needs while they responded in obedience to His call.
How many times have I seen men and women hesitate before the revelation of God because of worldly or family concerns? And where has it got them today? They're still out in the field tending their sheep - looking after their worldly concerns. The revelation has come and gone and they are wondering: "Why isn't the Lord speaking to me any more?" They rationalise: "But I couldn't have responded - my wife would have left me." Or, "But I couldn't have gone, because my business would have been threatened." Oh yes, you can think of the excuses - and there are hundreds of them. Didn't Yah'shua (Jesus) warn this would happen? He likened the call to a wedding feast. One by one the guests made excuses and went their way. You could fill every book in every library with the excuses of men invented not to respond to the divine call. That is why so many are called and so few are chosen. You see, to respond to the call of Christ you need first of all the shepherd mentality. You need the simplicity of his faith. Why on earth do you think Yahweh announced the nativity to shepherds out in the field and not to a local innkeeper and his guests, or a bunch of tax collectors, or to some rabbis, or the Pharisees, or anybody else? Why them in particular? What is it that separates the shepherd from all the other classes and professions?
Yah'shua (Jesus) called Himself the "good shepherd". Shepherds take care of the helpless against the violent. They even lay down their lives for their sheep on occasion. The shepherd - his physical body - is even the door to the sheep pen - which is why Yah'shua (Jesus) described Himself as the Door. Yah'shua (Jesus) never compares Himself to any other occupation -- except that of King...he doesn't even use His secular profession as a carpenter to illustrate His Kingdom message. His message is about shepherds and kings.
The shepherd was probably one of the most menial and yet responsible professions of the day and he is an illustration not only of the qualities of the divine Messiah but also of the Pastor. Looking at the pastoral office of some modern churches you would think they were kings. But pastors aren't kings in royal palaces - at any rate, not yet. They are rustic shepherds.
One American visiting a house church in China a few years back went in search of the local church's pastor. He had enormous problems finding him. All the Christians seemed to be dressed the same way and there was nothing in terms of their outer looks to distinguish the laity from the leadership. He finally found a little old man dressed in rags carting a wheelbarrow of human manure out to a field. This was the pastor. The American couln't believe his eyes. But here was a genuine pastor, out with his sheep, doing menial labour, working together with them. He was doing the most menial work - moving human detrius to the fields. No three piece suit, no flashy car, none of the usual accoutrements of the big time pastors of the West. A man of the soil. This is a genuine pastor. This is what Yah'shua (Jesus) meant by footwashing - serving in the most menial position. He didn't need a set of external badges to establish his authority - his authority lay in a pure heart, humility, and a willingness to "muck in" with everybody else. He was a people's person. There is your pastor - and there is the foundation of the local church. Without it you're going to built after the pattern of the world.
The three kings came later. They had a much, much longer journey to the infant Christ. What a contrast - dressed splendidly riding camels, attended by servants, and possessing great wealth and knowledge. Of all the world's potentates - thousands of kings, sheikhs and others, only three came to see the Messiah. Only three responded to the call. Not many. The great and wealthy and powerful are usually too occupied with their worldly pursuits to respond to the call of the humble carpenter. Interestingly, Yah'shua (Jesus) called them first of all, leaving the beggars last in the parable of the Wedding Feast. Was this favouritism? No, far from it. But kings and potentates have more influence on people than simple folk and the aim of the Gospel is to reach as many as possible. Convert a king and you are likely to convert a kingdom, because the uneducated masses will usually follow the example of the king. Most people respond by example, not through the lofty world of theological and apologetic thoughts. The Reformation began in this way, through a monk who converted princes and kings, whose principalities and kingdoms followed suit. It wasn't perfect but it was preferable to nothing at all. But mostly the kingdom doesn't begin this way - usually it is with the humble soul of no worth socially in Babylon's system. And with the disappearance of absolute monarchies nearly all evangelism must go to the grass roots of makind and build upwards. It is harder, more painstaking, but the fruits are far better.
Yes, there is a place for kings. But in the Kingdom of Heaven kings and shepherds are brothers. Read Philemon in the New Testament and you will see how the Kingdom rearranges the social ladder. Yet it's not socialism - not communism - but something far superior.
A little bit more about the three "kings" so that we do not misunderstand the symbolism. They are often called "magi" from which we get the English word "magician". They were not, however, sorcerers or magicians. Neither were they astrologers in the sense that that word is used today though they certainly observed the stars. They were sages, wise men, often in positions of responsibility but sometimes commanding respect because of their wisdom even when not holding office. They may have been kings or sheikhs, in fact, more than likely. This was a patriarchal time when men were tribal kings with many wives and servants. They came from the east, from the Medo-Persian empire or Babylon, though some traditions say one of them came from Nubia in Africa. It is their wisdom, though, that is the key thing here.
We have, if you like, two types of people approaching the Messiah from two different points in time and from two different social positions. In Christ they are made one. There is no distinction any more. They are still coming together in the prophetic scenario and when they are fully one you will have the Millennial Patriarch. For not only is this a picture of the incarnation at the meridian of time but it is prophetically looking forward to the New Order when the resurrected, glorified Christ returns to inaugurate the Millennial Theocratric Kingdom. His princes and rulers will reflect this combination of shepherd and wise man, as He Himself is the Shepherd-King of Israel. And we should not forget that there were three wise men, for this is no accident either. For three is the number of presidency or rulership, beginning with the triune Godhead and pointing downwards at every level of theocratic society.
Now when Christ was born Jewish society was not ideal - it was far removed from it. The Kingdom was in the hands of a foreigner - Herod (who was an Idumean Arab) - and under foreign (Roman) occupation. There were two classes - the super poor (represented typically by the shepherds) and the super rich (represented by the aristocracy). The poor were monogamous (because they couldn't afford anything else) and the rich were often polygamous (because they could afford it). This was a far cry from the period of Judgship when all the tribes were equal, where there were no kings of any kind and where polygamy was common place. The infant Messiah arrived in a society which would, a little over a century later, be destroyed. It represented the Old Order, a neo-Babylonian society. And He had come, as He Himself testified, to bring dissention to this divided family system - He had come to break it up. In B.C. 3 the God of Heaven incarnated to spell the end of the fallen world - a process that has been in operation now for over 2,000 years and which is shortly to end. Then the distinction between lowly shepherd and rich potentate will end. In the new world to come there will be no poverty and socity will have no kings, or presidents, or prime ministers. The Messiah Himself will be King of this world, and He will govern it through Patriarch-Shepherds - wise men possessing the humility and love of the shepherds of Bethelehem combined with the wisdom and rulership qualities of the three wise men. They will consist of large polygamous families with the Patriarch-Shepherd as Judge over his family and tribe. You see, the Millennial world will consist of a Family of families. Everybody will belong to a biological family and to an extended patriarchal family. There will be no orphans, no parentless children. Everybody will belong somewhere and have a patriarchal head.
Many, many years ago I had a vision which is indellibly imprinted on my mind. It was beautiful and whenever I think of it my heart quickens. It has never been published, as far as I can remember, but I share it with you today. It was nightime, the sky was crystal clear and the heavens were covered in myriads of stars twinkling like diamonds, not unlike the night sky here at Kadesh-biyqah on a clear night. It was beautiful to behold. In the distance were the clear blue waters of a harbour at rest, with the light of the night sky shimmering on the waves. You could not wish for a more romantic setting. As I turned in the vision I saw a splendid palace and upon the walls stood three bearded men attired in blue silk, wearing turbans. As I drew closer I recognised one of the men. The picture presented an oriental scene - it was certainly a warm climate. The men were noble and radiated warmth and love. I knew that they were patriarchs, the three governors of that particular territory or city, and that I was looking at a Millennial world. Eveything about the place made you want to stay there for ever. It was a kind of paradise. My heart glows every time I think about it.
There was a spirit in that place that I cannot really convey to you other than to point you back to the nativity and those shepherds and wise men gazing at the infant Messiah. It was a place of wonderment, a place where the Divine Presence enwrapped and embraced all those who stood in it. It is this spirit that has moved this New Covenant work from the beginning. It is the vision that fills my whole soul from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. It is the vision that has brought forth our revelations, or organisation, our Holy Order, and all that we are. It is that constant, unchanging white heat of love and goodness that fills our yearnings and fuels our hopes for the better world to come. It is what we are about. Few, if any, have understood it. Only those who are sitting amongst us today, who have been with this work from the beginning, know what I am talking about. For you cannot possibly know it until you have stood in it and withstood the testing of the fire that fuels it.
You cannot, in the same way, understand the Redeemer of the World until you have stood in the Divine Presence and drunk it. You cannot. No amount of theologising will enable you to understand it. No amount of intellectual reasoning will bring you to that wedding feast of delight. That is why the wise men aren't enough. That is why there must be humble shepherds, for the first guests are the simple, the pure, the trusting, the uncomplicated, the honest and the obedient. That must come first. Only then can the wise men appear to complete the picture. And, yes, they are important, for the shepherd is not without the wise man, and the wise man is not without the shepherd, any more than a husband can be without a wife, or a woman without a man if they are to be whole.
This, brethren and sisters, is my message to you today on this our New Year's Day. The New Covenant Church of God is a spiritual movement of unification between two parts of Christendom who have been divorced from one another for nearly two millennia. But it was not always so. This is a Patricrachal-Shepherd Society, a proto-Millennial one. We don't follow in the ways of tradition, ecclesiatical or otherwise, but are a special synthesis - a restoration if you like, but not in the way that some churches use that word. And perhaps those of you who are unfamiliar with what we believe and practice will now begin to grasp the overall message of this work. To understand us, go to that manger in your mind's eye, and to the gathering of shepherds and wise men, and combine them into one. There you will find the spirit of the New Covenant Church of God through which Yahweh is truly birthing something rather special. Our only wish is that you may share it and become an active part of it, to bathe in the Shekinah as we do, and to tell others that a Messiah is amongst us, blessing us, who wishes to share this Good News with a world that is perishing and will soon pass away.
May the Lord Yahweh, our Heavenly Father, richly bless you all as you regain that vision of the end-time witness, through Yah'shua (Jesus) His divine Son, and the Ruach haQodesh, the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah for the King and for the Kingdom! Amen.
This page was created on 6 April 2000
Last updated on 6 April 2000
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