Christmas is a Threat to Power


When Luke begins the story of Jesus, he makes a simple historical statement loaded with implications.  Luke writes, "In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered."

Caesar Augustus is the Roman Emperor at the time of Jesus birth. And it might seem like Luke is just sharing with us some boring, historical detail, but this is a detail that is both political and subversive.  At this time, Caesar Augustus is a man of great power and wealth and is called the Savior who has come to bring about peace and prosperity to all people.  Caesar, at the time of Jesus, is actually worshipped as the divine savior.  Of course, this peace that comes for all people is not exactly peaceful.  This Roman Peace (also called the Pax Romana) is a peace imposed by military might, it's a peace built on the backs of the outcast, the poor, and the oppressed, it's a peace that builds power by abusing the weak. 

Consider what an inscription from the Provincial Assembly of Asia actually said about Caesar: 

"The most divine Caesar... we should consider equal to the Beginning of all things...; for when everything was falling [into disorder] and tending toward dissolution, he restored it once more and gave to the whole world a new aspect... all the cities unanimously adopt the birthday of divine Caesar as the beginning of the year... who being sent to us and our descendants as a savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in order... Caesar has fulfilled all the hope of earlier times... in surpassing all the benefactors who preceded him... and whereas, finally, the birthday of the god [Augustus] has been for the whole world the beginning of the good news [Gospel] concerning him." - OGIS 2, no. 458

Divine.

Savior.

Peace.

For all people.

Good News.

A Different Kind of Good News

So if you're a Jewish boy hearing about the birth of this baby and you hear the name Caesar, Good News isn't exactly a peaceful word. And Savior isn't exactly hopeful or comforting. 

And if that weren't enough, Luke continues the story by telling the story of the Shepherds. The lowly, the outcasts.  Luke, as if to say, "Just so we all know that this Savior is actually for ALL people, let me tell you about the Shepherds." 

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” - Luke 2:8-14 

At this point in history, if you are the lowly, the poor, the oppressed, the Jews... if you hear Good News, it is always terrifying. It is anything but joyful. But then look comes in and saying, "I know you've been hurt, and beaten, and broken by this man named Caesar... but let me tell you about a baby." 

Because Jesus and Caesar are nothing alike. 

When Caesar comes, he comes in power and abusing the weak. But when Jesus comes, he comes in weakness and comes first to the weak. When Caesar offers peace, he brings a peace that is imposed by might. But when Jesus offers peace, he doesn't come with an army but he comes in a stable. When Caesar brings Salvation, he brings the Sword. But when Jesus brings Salvation, he is born to die. 

And suddenly, things quickly change. Because when a baby boy is born to a poor Jewish family in a stable, he is born and threatens the powers that be. When a baby boy is born and has no bed to rest in and has an army of animals at his side, he threatens a man who has more power and greater armies than anyone could imagine. 

Jesus comes in weakness and he comes for the weak. He comes not making threats but offering his life. He comes not to disrupt but to offer peace to the troubled soul. @@Jesus comes not to take the disobedient captive, he comes to set the captives free.@@ 

What has power over you? 

Is it something that somebody said to you or about you that still haunts you?  It still defines you. Is it the stress of the holiday season? The burdens and the responsibilities? Is it the pain and the suffering you are going through? Is it a sickness that you didn't expect, a change in your family relationships that you didn't see coming?  Is it a sin that no amount of effort or good intentions can overcome? 

@@When Jesus comes in the manger, he threatens whatever has power over you.@@  When Jesus shows up in weakness, he meets you in your own. When Jesus is born in a dirty, smelly stable, those in power are threatened. And when Jesus, takes his last breath on the cross, speaking the words "It is finished," we find Jesus offering himself to you.  Jesus, who was born to die, not only threatening but defeating whatever has power over you. 

 

 

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