Theme: JESUS CHRIST IS THE BRINGER OF PEACE, NOT CAESAR AUGUSTUS
- Luke 2:1-14
A Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year to you! Today we celebrate Christmas Day! The gospel of Luke tells us about the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ! The gospel today tells us that Jesus Christ was born at the time of Caesar Augustus. After his birth he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, because there was no room in the inn. The gospel also tells us that the news of Jesus Christ’s birth was announced to shepherds by an angel. And finally the gospel tells us that a great throng of the heavenly host sang: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to men who are favored by God’!
This short gospel of Luke has been chosen by the Church for Christmas, that is, Christ’s Mass, because it is rich in theology, spirituality, and good news! The gospel tells us that Caesar Augustus who was revered in the Roman Empire as “savior”, “god”, and the “bearer of peace” is neither “savior”, “god”, nor the “bearer of peace”! The gospel tells us that Jesus Christ is the “Savior”, “God”, and the “Bringer of Peace”! Caesar Augustus who ruled from 27 BC to 14 AD brought “peace” through political, economic and military power! But Jesus Christ brings “Peace” to the world through the power of God’s merciful love! Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, also speaks of “the power of God’s merciful love” for peace!
The gospel also tells us that when Jesus Christ was born, he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger! This good news is very important and is mentioned twice in today’s short gospel! The good news is that God has become man (wrapped in swaddling clothes like any other human being after birth) and God has become food for man (laid in a manger, that is, the place where the animals feed)!
But more than that the gospel tells us that God not only became man and became food for man, but he became food for sinful man! That is why the good news was announced to shepherds! We must not sentimentalize and romanticize the shepherds! The shepherds were mangy, stinking, dirty and poor, and they were thieves! They, like the tax collectors and prostitutes belonged to a despised trade! The shepherds are the lowly sinners!
That is why the angel said to the shepherds: ‘do not be afraid, I bring you news of great joy for the whole people! Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born for you! He is Christ the Lord’!
Do not be afraid, I bring you news of great joy! Sinners do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy, not bad news of judgment and punishment! Today, not tomorrow, a Savior has been born for you! A Savior, not another lawgiver with more laws than Moses! He is Christ the Lord! He is the promised Messiah (Christ in Greek) and he is God Himself (Lord)!
And that is why the gospel ends with the great throng of the heavenly host singing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who are favored by him”!
Glory is given to God, not to men, because Salvation is from God, not from men! And peace to men who are favored by God! This is the correct translation! Some translate it wrongly as ‘peace to men of good will’! Peace is a favor, a blessing and a grace given to men by God free-of-charge (FOC)!
And the “Peace” that Jesus Christ gives is not the same peace that Caesar Augustus gave, that is, an absence of war! The “Peace” that Jesus Christ gives is more than an absence of war! It is forgiveness of sins, salvation, healing, proclamation of the Good News, Death and Resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit for the Sanctification and Salvation of the whole people!
Let us look at the word “Peace” in the other passages of the same gospel of St. Luke! In Luke 7:50 Jesus said to the sinful woman whose sins he has forgiven: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace”! Peace is forgiveness of sins! Peace is salvation! In Luke 8:48, after healing the woman with hemorrhage, Jesus said to her: “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace”! Peace is healing! Peace is salvation! In Luke 10:5-6, after Jesus had appointed the 72, he said to them: “Into whatever home you enter, first say, ‘peace to this household’”! Peace is Mission and the Proclamation of the Good News!
In Luke 19:38, at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the whole multitude of his disciples proclaimed: “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens”! Peace is associated with Jesus’ Salvation to be accomplished in Jerusalem! And finally in Luke 24:36, at Jesus’ Appearance to the Disciples in Jerusalem after his Resurrection, he said to them: “Peace be with you”! Peace is associated with the giving of the Holy Spirit after his Resurrection!
That is why St. Luke tells us in today’s gospel that Jesus Christ is the bringer of “Peace”, not Caesar Augustus! Again, peace cannot be achieved only through the political, economic, and military power of Caesar Augustus, but peace can only be achieved through the power of Jesus Christ, that is, the power of God’s merciful love! And that is why we greet each other: “Peace be with you”! Peace be with you!
Again, a Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.