Augustus or Christ - Luke 2: 1-20
Summary Christmas Day speech Sunday 25-12-2016. Pastor evangelist Johan Krijgsman. Phone 020-6227742; mobile: 06-83571391. Amsterdam@bijbelcentrum.nl www.bijsimondelooier.nl Theme of the speech, "Augustus or Christ w.r.t. Luke 2: 1-20
March 15 next year, there are parliamentary elections again. Already, it is said that it will be an exciting race. There will also be a lot of vilification of each other. Much is promised to the citizens. Everything is possible. Each party has its say. That is the advantage of a democracy. Despite that, you can sometimes feel such a powerless citizen. Often you find out that our democracy is not as democratic as it is said. As common man or woman you often feel powerless .
Yet this is of all times. Also in the Christmas history we meet helpless civilians.
They need to register. Because the Roman emperor Augustus wants a census. And the law of August is king. If you don't obey this order, then you're in for a lot of trouble. Everyone had to go to the place where he had family property.
That registration was quite a hassle. Some had to travel a long way. Certainly at that time, without public transport, was that quite a thing. This also applied to Joseph and Mary. They had to travel from Nazareth in the north to Bethlehem in the south. A journey of about 80 km.
That registration was often a harbinger of more trouble. If you had been registered, they were able to find you for taxation.
Sometimes all kinds of riots occurred around those registrations. For registration was felt as a sign of humiliating.
The people of Israel were continually reminded that they were not free. That they were ruled by a foreign Roman governor who wanted to meticulously scrutinize all the doings of that foreign people.
As I said, the law of Emperor Augustus is king. Everywhere he has his henchmen. Everywhere in Israel his armies are ready for use. August is at the apex of his power. He has restored the peace in the kingdom after several tumultuous years. Now he sits alone on his throne. Untouchable. The enemies of his empire keep quiet. Augustus is as it were the prince of peace. The Roman peace, they call it. The world will be none the worse for it. If there would have been elections, then Augustus would be the most popular politician. Candidate for prime minister. They even call him the saviour. Augustus is his nickname. It means the sublime, divine. Augustus has the power, he thinks.
That mighty Augustus has to give Luke a place in his Christmas history. Not to honour him. Neither only of historical interest. No, Luke wants to say something with it. He wants to show who has the ultimate power. It concerns the question of who the real king is. That is Christ.
At first glance you would not say that. For where we do we encounter Christ in this story? With helpless citizens. He is one with the common man. One with ordinary people like Joseph and Mary. With them He is travelling. Mary was an ordinary, pregnant girl in the eyes of others. Christ is with her. With the powerless citizens haven't to say anything. Who have only to obey at the command of Augustus.
When they come later in Bethlehem, there is not even a place for them. Thus, no room for Christ. With those people this helpless Child, in the eyes of people, wants to join. What a humiliation while He is yet to be born. What a love. With such people He wants to interfere. This little baby, still in the womb of Mary, takes on a vunerable line. For remember: He pulls the strings. To this present day. He reigns.
Though there is no place in a house in Bethlehem, He makes Himself a place. He wants to be born in a stable.
Emperor Augustus sits on his throne in his palace. King Jesus lies in a manger in a stable.
Seemingly fragile and immature. Yet he has all power in heaven and on earth even in the stable.
He is in charge. That ought rightfully to enlighten us . If that happens, you kneel at his manger and you worship Him.
People will worship Him in the stable. Since God the Father takes care of it. Therefore He uses an angel. He will honour Him as the Christ.
He uses royal and imperial words for it. He says to the shepherds in the field: For unto you is born the Saviour,Which is Christ the Lord, in the city of David, in Bethlehem. He says: Today the Saviour is born, the Redeemer.
The honorary title of Augustus, the saviour is here given to this child. This Babe is the Saviour.
In the world, we seek, expect it from strong, rich people. From emperors, kings, from presidents. We don't seek it with the ordinary man or woman. Definitely not with a poor baby.
Anyway: here in the manger of Bethlehem lies the Redeemer, the Saviour of the world. He seems poor, but is rich. He has come to deal with all the miserable things in the world. Not least those wretched personal things, our sins.
Augustus can enforce things, but in this way evil is not destroyed. It continues to live in people's hearts. It is fed by frustration. By our innate anger, our sins.
But this Redeemer denounces injustice, sins, to exterminate them. To forgive them.
As powerless as he appears in a manger, so powerful He is for the faith. Thats why the angel calls Him Lord.
'The angel calls him Lord, the Kurios. That name is not given Him at the end of His life. No, at the very beginning of His life. Without anyone noticing He is Lord and Master from the very beginning. From the eternal "beginning" to eternal 'end'.
This Lord has come to us in poverty, as a seemingly Impotent One. We think about it at Christmas. Such is this King. Such is this God. So different from Augustus. From the world.
People who feel poor, miserable and powerless through their sins are welcome to Him.
These two exactly fit in with each other. By His Holy Spirit He makes them to match.
Even if you feel anything at all by yourself, you're welcome to Him. Even if you yourself do not feel anything at all , you're welcome to Him. Even if you feel nothing for Him you're welcome. What a Lord, what a King He is.
Therefore the angels are talking about peace on earth. Not an imposed peace, but a deserved peace by Jesus. Therefore, this Lord has to hang on the cross.
He gives this peace by sowing His love in the hearts of people. In People in whom He is well pleased. People who count in His plan. They do not count in themselves. He does include them. He's showing solidarity with the powerless.
Christ or Augustus
Who do you choose? Christ or Augustus? Augustus is a model for power and glitter. Augustus also symbolizes a new world leader. One who will make it. World powers and world leaders speak big words, but they rarely make them true.
The angels point at Christ at Christmas time. At the humble Child in the manger. Come to ordinary people. From his crib, what do I say, before His manger He ruled already.
He ensured that Augustus will have to register the world, that Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem. There Jesus had to be born according to the prediction of the prophets.
There in Bethlehem, which means house of bread. In that house of bread the Living Bread Jesus is to be found.
He offers Himself. He says: I am the Living Bread. Then make use of Him again and again. Or learn to make use of Him. How? Just say out loudly that you don't understand anything why and for what He came. Just say it out loudly. Say as well: teach me why I need you as the Child of Bethlehem. Learn me to abjure Augustus. So you learn to sing, Glory to God! Amen.