Prince of Peace

“The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

At the time Caesar Augustus enforced an Empire wide census for taxation purposes. Quirinius, who had become the governor of Syria and Judah carried out this order. As a result of this activity in a seemingly insignificant town outside of the Jerusalem area by the name of Bethlehem two descendants of King David, who were wed, came to be counted. Joseph and Mary had traveled from Galilee to Bethlehem and Mary was heavy with child. Upon arriving in Bethlehem these peasant parents we blessed with the birth of a son. The child was named Jesus and from that moment on the world would forever change.

Caesar Augustus, whose meaning of his name was “exalted one,” had ended a long period of war in the Roman Empire. Throughout the Empire the people had become war weary and now that there was peace the people were jubilant. They hailed Caesar as the prince of peace and the savior of the world. With the Roman peace the economy was growing and Rome was being rebuilt to become more glorious than ever before. The Romans built new temples, forums, and bath houses. Across the whole Empire a system of roads for transportation was under construction. Everywhere across the Roman Empire images of the Emperor Caesar was to be seen. The Roman gods filled Rome and all her major cities. The citizens of the Roman Empire proclaimed Caesar lord and it was a time of peace and prosperity.

Beneath the polish and the glitter was the dark truth that there was no real peace. If Augustus perceived one to be an enemy of his rule he would have them brutally murdered. Opposition to his rule was not in any way permitted. The peace in Augustus’s Empire came with a price, the price was the suppression of human rights and personal liberties of the people. If one was to live in peace under the rule of Caesar Augustus then they would have to submit to totalitarian rule. This was not a true peace but a peace achieved by oppression. This then is the example of the peace that the world has to offer from the days of the Roman Empire until our present day.

“Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.” (Luke 2:1) The Roman Empire was a large Empire filled with nations and people that had been conquered from the many years of war. Wars are a costly way for a nation to enforce its will upon people. Now the cost of this long period of conflict had to be paid for so Caesar Augustus imposed the collection of taxes upon the conquered people in his Empire. Because of this Joseph and a very pregnant Mary made the 90 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered so that they could be taxed by the Roman government.

“And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:28-33) Mary believed the words of the angel Gabriel and when she visited her cousin Elizabeth who knew what had happened to her and confirmed by her testimony. Mary, the mother of Jesus, sang this song, “My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.” And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him. “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.” He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. “He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed.” He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)

Joseph and Mary were poor and the trip was an interruption to their financial income and arriving at Bethlehem they were unable to find proper lodging. They ended up in a stable where animals were kept and on that night Mary gave birth to their son and laid him in a manger, a feeding troth for the animals they shared lodging with.

It may appear to us that Emperor Augustus was in control of the events of his day. By his word he has ordered the movements of people from the far regions of his Empire to obey his command to go to polling places to be counted for taxation purposes. But we see as we read the Scriptures that a greater hand was in control of the events of that day.

Centuries before the Prophet Samuel had journeyed to Bethlehem and appointed a shepherd by the name of David to become the King of Israel and he establish a throne that this child of Joseph and Mary would inherit. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Luke 1:32) At the time of Herod the King of the Jews, Quirinius the governor of Judah, and Caesar Augustus the Emperor of Rome, the King of kings was born in the little town of Bethlehem.

It was in the most humble and the most unlikely circumstance that a child was born who would become the Savior of the world and the Prince of Peace. The meek child born in Bethlehem would become Son of God who came to save that which was lost. He would be the one to pay the price for the sin of the world. He would be the one who came to reconcile man back into a relationship with God. He would be the one who died on the Roman cross and rise again from the grave that man could have everlasting life. He will be the one who will usher in God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven. His reign will not be with the method of coercive force as man uses but with the power of self-giving love.

It is appropriate that His birth was not announced to the worldly elite, the power brokers, or to the rulers of the day. The announcement of His royal birth come first to the lowly shepherds in the field as they tended to their flocks. Shepherds who are the lowest subjects that were known to the Emperor. As we look back on the shepherds we have a romantic look upon them. As “shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night,” we respect them as dedicated hard working men who braved the elements to guard over their flocks against the dangers that where ever present. But in that day and time they were not considered to be desirable company. The shepherds of the day were illiterate and poor and thought not to be honorable people because they were not at home during the night to care and protect their families. They were of questionable honesty as they grazed their flocks on other people’s property. They were social outcast in the society and were cast together with the sailors, camel drivers and other despised occupations.

But it was to these that the angels made the announcement, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2″10-11) This great news of joy was for all the people not just the elite, especially the poor and down trodden. For unlike the elite, they knew their need of a Savior. The shepherds responded and went to Bethlehem to see this great thing that had happened. They went to find this baby that the angels had spoken of and went on to share the good news of the Savior’s birth.

The world today is filled with little Caesars, Princes and Kings, Emperors and Presidents, and Despots and Dictators. Rulers who command great wealth, power and military might. They control the movement of masses to suit their own selfish desires and do so in the name of maintaining peace. They rise and they fall, come and go reminding us that one way or the other all tyrants will eventually come to an end.

Let us not be foolish and think that the world we know is now settled and the troubles of the day can and will be contained by the goodness of our leaders. There are good men and there are bad men but they are all men and all have the same selfish inner desires and beneath the mask will do what they deem necessary to accomplish their own goals. And will do so under the premise of peace. But they will hold tightly to the tools that grant them power over others. They will maneuver and plan all along promising peace and security but yet they have never delivered.

This season that we celebrate, Christmas, is the remembrance of when truth came to be amongst men. Since that day man has no excuse but to realize that he is incapable to be lord over his or the lives of others. Because on that day in the little town of Bethlehem not so long ago the anointed One from God, the Savior and Lord arrived amongst us and forever changed the world.

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, came to save that which was lost. He came to reconcile you and me unto the Father that we can have a personal relationship with God the Creator. There is and will be no peace until man is once again at peace with his Creator. The world will not find peace through the hearts of men, it will not find peace from the governments of men, and it will not find peace with the sword. The world will only find peace when living in the bond of love through Jesus the Christ.

The Savior came for us so many centuries ago and the news of His birth is even more good news today as it was then. He is alive, He is a living Lord, as long as the down trodden are lifted up, the forgotten are welcomed, those who hunger are fed, the needy are clothed and sheltered, the enslaved are set free, the enemies are forgiven, and the good news of the gospel of Jesus is proclaimed, then lives will be transformed.

This year as we celebrate the remembrance of the birth of Jesus, let us also look forward to that moment, that twinkling of an eye, when the Prince of Peace well come to reign in Love and Justice, Mercy and Peace in all fullness.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

The Bridges, December 7, 2014

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