In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth, peace among those whom he favors."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.~ Luke 2:1-20
The writer of Luke doesn't want us to miss something important.
The Messiah was born into a world in which everything would have been stacked against him politically and religiously speaking.
The Emperor Augustus - the most powerful man in the world - considered himself divine. He was called "The Son of God." By calling himself divine, this would have been a slap in the face of faithful Jews.
Quirinius was his chosen leader of the area of Judea in which Jesus was born. His calling of a census was something forbidden by the Jewish faith.
Into the midst of this power structure - one that subjugated the people of Mary and Joseph - is born a leader who is the exact opposite of what worldly leadership was.
And this child - who was a sign of the peace of God - showed how limiting and un-peaceful was the existing Roman peace.
The "Pax Romana" was a peace created by the Emperor. It was a peace that, while bringing stability and growth to the Roman Empire, was created through the violence of war and oppression.
It was a peace that could not and did not last.
The peace of God - one that was born as love incarnate - would show the world to come what true peace was.
One that cannot and will not come through earthly leaders or through war or oppression.
One that brings into the fold those whom the world would least expect.
A peace that is lasting. Permanent. Inviting.
The peace of God began on that first Christmas in a way that the world could not begin to expect.
And so the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.
The first evangelists had to go out and share the joy.
What they had heard and seen amazed them.
The peace of God had come.
Peace born in the unlikeliest of places; a backwater town in an oppressed land.
May the peace of God be with you and yours as Christmas comes. May it be lasting. And may it be a peace that you are moved to share.
This Christmas Eve, Lord God let me live out your lasting peace, spreading it to a world in need. Amen