Swedenborg & Life Live Recap: The Wise Men, 3 Gifts, and the Star of Bethlehem — 12/18/18

Watch full episode here!


In our last episode, we looked at how the Old Testament stories of the patriarchs can help us understand what Jesus went through. In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose go live to dive deeper into eighteenth-century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg’s understanding of what the Christmas story really means.


What is a spiritual gift that you could give or receive?

Jonathan had a mentor at one point who had a contagious passion for the Bible. Though that mentor has since passed on, he passed down that love to Jonathan, who now does what he can to share the Word with others.

Curtis feels like he’s picked up a sense of wonder, patience, and childlike innocence from his wife, who teaches preschool children.

The Wise Men and the Star

Many have heard the story of the three wise men visiting the baby Jesus, but it’s more than a sweet story. According to Swedenborg, even the land they came from had an inner meaning.

The good that comes of faith, symbolized by the land of the east, is just what the Word calls charity for one’s neighbor; and charity for one’s neighbor is just a life that accords with the Lord’s commandments. . . . Because of it, people who knew what there was to know about the good that comes of faith were called “children of the east.” Syria was home to the last survivors of the ancient church, so knowledge of goodness and truth still remained there. (Secrets of Heaven §3249:1, 2)

The star they followed also had a specific meaning.

The star that went before them meant a new insight from heaven. (Sacred Scripture §23:3)

Even the direction of the east had meanings. One of the interesting things about the wise men is that they were actually aware of the inner meanings in the story they were living.

Since the Lord is the east, the star was seen by the sages from the east. Because they understood symbolism, they knew about the Lord’s coming, so they saw the star and it went before them—first to Jerusalem (which represented genuine religion as it relates to doctrine and to the Word), and from there to the place where the infant Lord was. Also, a star symbolizes knowledge about goodness and truth, and in the highest sense, knowledge about the Lord. (Apocalypse Explained §422:20)

Because the angels in the spiritual heaven shine as stars, and because all truth and good belonging to them are from the Lord, therefore the Lord, as He is called an angel, is also called a star. (Apocalypse Explained §72:2)

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

When the wise men visited the baby Jesus, they brought gifts. At this point, it should come as no surprise that each of those gifts had an inner significance.

Nothing is more common in the Word than for gold to symbolize and represent the goodness that belongs to wisdom or to love. . . . [In Matthew 2:11], too, gold symbolizes goodness. Frankincense and myrrh symbolize things that are pleasing [to the Lord], because they spring from love and faith. (Secrets of Heaven §113)

But since the correspondences in the Bible have a whole host of meanings, these gifts, according to Swedenborg, could also be understood in different ways.

Gold meant what is good on the heavenly level, frankincense what is good on the spiritual level, and myrrh what is good on the earthly level; and these three are the basis of all worship. (Sacred Scripture §23:3)

Gold symbolized heavenly love; frankincense, spiritual love; and myrrh, both kinds of love on an earthly level. (Secrets of Heaven §4262:3)

Gold symbolizes heavenly goodness; frankincense, spiritual goodness; and myrrh, earthly goodness . . . thus the three kinds of goodness of the three heavens. (Apocalypse Explained §491:5)

The wise men knew these meanings, so they were intentionally celebrating Jesus’s birth using the inner spiritual meanings of each gift. With their understanding, they were able to acknowledge the power of that moment in a language understood on earth and in heaven.

Chat Q&A

During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Just click a question to see the answer:

Guest Interview

To get a look at Swedenborgian Christmas traditions, we join Joralyn Glenn from the Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn, PA. She shares how the Pitcairn family celebrated Christmas and commissioned a custom Nativity tableau.


At the beginning, we asked about spiritual gifts you’ve given or received. Here are some of the answers.

  • The best spiritual gift is truth! – Virginia Dare
  • Discernment. – Mtp358
  • The spiritual gifts that I can give is to forgive the people who have hurt me. – Mary Richards
  • You can give and receive the gift of love. – Deanna Buntin
  • I would give the gift of healing to everyone who is sick or needs it. – Pete Dawson
  • Kindness is the spiritual gift I can give. – Shelly Evans
  • Spiritual gift: serenity. – Katrina Marshall
  • Compassion and empathy are the spiritual gifts we acquire from Love. – Carolyn Norton
  • The spiritual gift I try to give is the truth, whether it be personal or a spiritual one, and that’s what I’d like to receive as well, the Golden rule. – Sean Smith
  • To be able to understand and explain scripture as well as Dr. Rose. – Jen Blossom
  • That’s the best gift. – Matthew Bush
  • Isn’t prayer a kind of spiritual gift? – Jimmy Jennings
  • Oh yes. Prayer. I second that one! – A Mind With Heart
  • It is a gift to change your ways for the better for those who live with you. – Jon Childs
  • I think I’ll go with Jon’s. – Rosie Cross
  • You could give the gift of understanding what another is going through. – Eternal Spring
  • Allowing others to be themselves without judging them. – Riku
  • I will answer the gift Y’ALL GIVE. Curtis, you have a gentleness in your ministry, you respect others’ spiritual freedom. I’ve benefited from that gift so much – and I try to give it. – Joy Borazjani
  • To always pass along the gifts that have been given to me. They come from the Divine and have liberated me from falsity. Only passed along are they fully fulfilled. – Matt Cline
  • The spiritual gift of peace – which becomes a portion of who we are when we are living true to our Lord and his daily bread and how we manifest our daily bread. – Jodi Hanson

Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week with a preview of our brand new show, News from Heaven!


Related Swedenborg & Life Videos

The Psychology of Jesus
“The Spiritual Battles of Jesus Christ”
“Who Was Swedenborg?”
Why Did Jesus Come to Earth as a Baby?
“Why Jesus Was Born”

Free E-Book Downloads

Apocalypse Explained
Apocalypse Revealed
Divine Love and Wisdom
Divine Providence
Heaven and Hell
New Jerusalem
Sacred Scripture / White Horse
Secrets of Heaven
True Christianity


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  • About Swedenborg & Life

    In a lighthearted and interactive webcast format, host Curtis Childs from the Swedenborg Foundation and featured guests explore topics from Swedenborg’s eighteenth-century writings about his spiritual experiences and afterlife explorations and discuss how they relate to modern-day life and death.
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