Pax Romana vs. Pax Christiana
When Dr. Luke tells us the Christmas story, he gives us some background information to set the stage. He begins, "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world" (Luke 2:1). Caesar Augustus was a fascinating character who did two remarkable things. First, he had himself declared "Savior of the World". That takes some...uh...guts.
Second, he declared World Peace (it was known as the pax romana). In 27 BC he closed the temple to the Roman god of war, and, in doing so, made a statement: There will be no more war.
Interestingly, the way he maintained the peace was to kill anyone who stepped out of line in the most violent ways imaginable.
We're going to have world peace if I have to kill every last one of you!
That's one way of doing things. And it continues in some places today. I don't just mean governmentally or militarily. I'm thinking of households where peace is kept through manipulation, bullying and violence.
As I mentioned yesterday, we all want peace in our homes. We want peace on earth this Christmas. And one way of going about it is to simply declare it and rule with an iron fist. But there is another way -- a better way.
Later in the same chapter, Luke tells us about the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. You remember that part, right? It's the part Linus reads in "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Notice what the angels say to the shepherds: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14).
Peace to whom? Those on whom his favor rests.
Jesus comes into a world where people in charge are screaming, "We will have world peace if I have to kill every last one of you!" And the One who is the true Savior of the World brings peace through acceptance, unmerited favor, grace.
Who deserves this favor from on high? Absolutely no one.
Who gets this favor from on high? Absolutely everyone who will receive it.
Caesar Augustus offered to kill in order to get this peace.
Jesus of Nazareth offered to die in order to get it.
Guess whose peace is still around.