Newborn King, Prince of Peace.
Christmas Eve, Common Lectionary Year A
Â©2013 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones
When Jesus was born, there was already a King in Judea. This name was Herod . He liked to be called Great, Herod the Great. Herod was no David, noÂ Solomon, and he knew it. He owed his kingship solely to the geo-political ambitions of Rome. Herod was a puppet.
The one who pulled his strings, the reaÂ ruler in Judea, was Caesar, his name was Octavian, though he liked to be called Augustus. He also liked to be called The One who is Divine â€“ Sebastos. or Kyrios, Lord, or Saviour of the Word. or Son of God. (For he claimed his divine lineage through Julius, all the way backÂ a thousand years, to the divine conception of Aeneas, son of the goddess Venus). Augustus, Saviour of the World, also liked to be called â€œRuler of Peace.â€ For under Augustus, the â€œPax Romanaâ€ the peace through conquest, spanned the known world.
So, when Jesus was born, there was no room for another â€œKing of the Jews,â€ no call for a â€œSon of Godâ€ or a â€œPrince of Peace.â€ Those jobs were already taken. To claim, as Matthewâ€™s Gospel does, that Jesus was a newborn King, a true descendant of David, no Romanized puppet, was at the very least, unwise, and to those in power, it was seditious, treasonous, punishable byÂ deathâ€¦ but we know how the story ends. That cross casts its shadow over this stable.
To expect that Maryâ€™s son, a carpenterâ€™s boy, could or would sweep aside the pretensions of Herod and the real might of Romeâ€™s peace, was sheer lunacy. And yet, that is why we are here tonight.
Now, as then, people know when they are walking in darkness, in search of light, people know what they experience under Rome, or Romeâ€™s 21st century descendents, is not peace, but armed standoff, barely suppressed tension threatening to boil over into overt aggression, on domestic, or national, or terrorist, or global proportions. People then, as now, were looking for somethingâ€¦. deeper, stronger-yet-gentler, for honesty, for something holy to heal the mundane. Some looked, and still look over the horizons for a new great leader, some Messianic strong arm who will sweep away corruption, hold accountableÂ to justice the petty despots of city halls and government mansions.
But there are others who looked, and still look deep into the darkness, away from the gaudy lights of power, into the shadows where powerâ€™s so-called peaceful boot is felt most harshly, looking there, for the glimmer of tiny, fragile, light. Something, small, earth-bound, yet heaven-sent, something newborn, growing, birthing a peace from below, a compassion rooted in the soil of real need. A kingdom for the lost to be found, A kingdom for the broken to be mended, A kingdom of Godâ€™s peace, hidden among the kingdoms of earth.
Should we be so surprised then, if Godâ€™s answer to our deepest yearning and longing, is to be found in just such a guise, newborn in the shadows, a princeling,Â peace incarnate in human struggle, and human beauty? In a tiny child, God comes, Peace on earth, mercy mild, Glory to this, newborn king.