Good News of Great Joy

Do not be afraid I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:10-12)

How could this message of the angels make sense to the the shepherds in a world where the mainstream religion was emphatically a branch of the state and the Roman emperor Augustus took the role of “chief priest” and had also assumed the title that amounted to being a “son of the divine Julius Caesar”? The angels’ words were treasonable, because at this time the world knew of only one child. It was Augustus Caesar who through his peaceful rule (Roman peace), the known world was enjoying “justice, peace, security and prosperity” because the son of god has become king of the world.   Why did the shepherds go with all their speed to find and worship the baby lying in the manger? After all, Jerusalem said “the rule of Caesar, the Roman “son of god,” was the “good news that had brought blessings and benefits to the whole world.

Gerard_van_Honthorst_001The answer to these questions depends on our understanding of the Kingdom of God. If our dreams of the Kingdom of God are national liberation, then we will be afraid because it will lead us into a direct clash with Caesar.  If our dreams of the Kingdom of God are the lust of our eyes, and the boasting of what we have, then we will be afraid because those will pass away. Paul tells us that Christians do not wage war to acquire power and earthly things; on the contrary, their citizenship is in heaven. Christians, “eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ …” (Philippians 3:20, 21).

Throughout history there will be governments that rise up and do well at preserving justice, law and order, as was the case during the time of Augustus Caesar. As believers we should do all we can to support these regimes. However, we should never be afraid to declare that there is only one true King. The angels told the shepherds “Do not be afraid.” Indeed which shepherd could not be afraid when they have been waiting for so long for their redeemer to come and all they saw was the dreary procession of corrupt officials and tyrannical regimes come and go? How beautiful was this longing fulfilled after the shepherds stared on the company of heavenly host who appeared with the angel and upon seeing the baby; the Bible tells us, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke2:20). How are you helping your local community understand that the real divine King did come in the form of a human King:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.
As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit (Zech. 9:9-11).

Lawrence Temfwe