Jesus was born under the rule of tyranny. Absolute power was held by the Roman Emperor who ruled conquered regions through local agents. Herod was one such agent. So long as he ensured that Roman supremacy and interests were not challenged in Judea and the Roman coffers were filled; no questions would be asked.
The combined oppression of the dominant and their pathetic agents imposed immense hardships on the people. They were harassed and relentlessly taxed to sustain the extravagant lifestyles of their rulers. They had no one to turn to. They were like sheep without shepherds. Herod was obsessed with pleasing Rome; and Rome obsessed with more dominance and wealth.
The birth of Jesus disturbs Herod. He fears a rival, consults advisers and seeks information from the eastern dignitaries who had arrived in search of a new born king. A violent intention is concealed behind an honourable request; he too wished to worship the new born king. Religious pretence and hidden deceit; these things go together.
The visitors from the east are wise; they read the stars. Having encountered Jesus, they are inspired by a dream to avoid Herod. They depart another way. The wise do not cooperate with deceit. Wisdom and integrity; these things go together.
This measured resistance defeats the guile of a ruthless ruler. The helpless baby is saved. He grows into the Prince of Peace.
Wise behaviour of the moment facilitates the emerging reign of God. These things go together.
The story then takes a tragic turn. Herod reacts with anger. He orders the inhumane killing of all male babies under the age of two in and around Bethlehem. “Kill many to get one and so warn the rest” is the method of the insecure tyrant. It is a sign of desperation within the rule of tyranny. Desperate, violent rulers and helpless suffering masses; these things go together.
A dream inspires Jesus’ parents. They use their common sense to secure safety in neighbouring Egypt. Others may have done likewise. This is how Jesus became a refugee. Common sense and the protection of life; these things go together. They inevitably influence the emerging reign of God. This protected baby eventually replaces the death of tyranny with the way to truth and abundant life for all. The protected have potential to liberate; these things go together.
The nature of tyranny
The nature of tyranny is changeless. It is built on the tripod of greed, deception and violence; these things go together. They intoxicate and condition tyrants to disregard the common good. This makes them enemies of the people. They consequently lose the moral right to rule and the people then gain the moral right to defend their interests. Morality lost and gained; these things go together.
Limits to tyranny
But tyrants are not all powerful. They cannot tamper with the spirituality of wisdom and common sense.This combined spirituality cannot be easily bought over, intimidated or killed. It is as unique as universal human rights. It throbs within the human to clamour for human rights. Human spirituality and human rights; these things go together.
Human spirituality is activated when the rule of tyranny spreads unabated. Human spirituality stirs the human conscience when the rule of tyranny steals human dignity. These trends go together.
Human spirituality formed and fed by wisdom and common sense becomes a form of resistance under the rule of tyranny. When sustained, this dynamic eventually makes the difference. It exposes greed, deception and violence and out-lives the tyrant to usher a better world. These things go together.
The Christmas hope is that the rule of tyranny is short lived. It will be replaced with the reign of God; “Peace on earth and goodwill to all.” The Christmas challenge is to make this happen, soon. Christmas hope and Christmas challenge; these things go together. We cannot have the one without the other.
This is the Good News of Jesus Christ.
With Peace and Blessings to all!