December 24, 2012
Luke 2: 1-14 (Mass at Night)
Luke begins his account of the birth of Jesus by placing it in the reign of Caesar Augustus.
Before becoming the Emperor, Augustus (previously known as Octavian) had defeated Mark Antony, bringing an end to 13 or so years of power struggle and civil war. With his victory, he became the sole ruler of Rome. Within a short time, the Roman Republic came to an end, and the Roman Empire began with Augustus as the very first Emperor.
The people of Rome then enjoyed a period of peace that lasted over 200 years, known as pax Romana (Roman peace, also known as pax Augusta).
However, for the peoples and nations defeated and conquered by Rome, it was not the same. Augustus expanded the empire with conquests, political alliances, and suppression. The way Pilate treated the children of Israel, as recorded elsewhere in the New Testament (and other historical records) is an example.
Luke recalls such a world by mentioning the name of Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, the Roman appointed governor of the Province of Syria, and the enrollment that Rome imposed on its conquered territories.
The pax Romana was a kind of relative and even artificial peace.
To such a world, the true Prince of Peace came.
He did not come with earthly glory and destructive armies. He came as “an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” Like any human infant, he needed to be wrapped in swaddling clothes to ensure that his limps would not be crooked.
Yet, this weak infant brought true and lasting peace. This peace was not just for a selected and privileged few. His peace was revealed in the humble surrounding of a manger, given first to the poor and lowly people of the land.
It was God’s true and lasting peace “on whom [God’s] favor rests.”
How do I view the way and the power of God’s peace? How do I promote that peace? What do I do to build a world with the peace that the Messiah brings?