We’ve been at war as long as I can remember.
From the Cold War to Desert Shield/Storm to the War on Terror, the United States has been in deadly conflict my whole life. Longer actually. We have a history of conflict, war, and military action. It’s woven into our DNA as a free nation, a democracy, and as a world superpower,
All these wars in my lifetime have been in the name of peace. Peace by the sword, gun, missile, and bomber. It’s been a big, bloody quest for peace. I question its effectiveness. Just tonight, another possible war with Iran was started by US military decisions. The attack was preemptive, designed to deter any future attack plans from Iran. Preemptive killing to establish peace.
The truth is this isn’t a quest for peace. It’s a quest to remain in power. We may crouch it in the language of protecting our national interests and personnel in other countries, but really, it’s just about power plays that governments uses to show the other governments the toys, the might, the money.
War costs lives. War leaves a trail of dead and wounded, no matter which side wins — as if war is a schoolyard fight for respect and lunch money.
War will never bring about peace. War begets conflict begets battle. Times of prosperity and peace — if you want to use that word here — that are brought about by the mighty fist are temporary and tenuous at best. At worst, they are a dictatorship, colonizing and conquering to secure that there is no decent, no rebellion, no freedom.
Rome existed as a colonizing force, taking over countries and peoples as the glorious empire expanded in the name of Cesar. Judea was under Roman rule, under the leadership of this war machine that was bringing peace to the ends of the earth. No longer allowed its own government and leadership, Judea had a puppet king installed to keep the peace. Herod was there to make sure there was no revolt, that taxes were paid, and that the appropriate export of personal for the military might happened.
Three men entered his palace one day. They were foreigners, defiantly not from Judea. Maybe not even from anywhere in the Empire. They came before king Herod and asked a question that pierced his soul.
“Where is the one born king of the Jews?”
Turns out, these men weren’t just travelers. These were magi, magicians, astrologers, wise men. They were from the east, outside the Roman territory, and they had been led to Herod’s jurisdiction by a star. A star rising led these magi to seek out the one who was born king of the Jews. They came to pay him homage.
Herod was shook. Wasn’t he king of the Jews, appointed by Rome to rule this backwater state? Who were these men looking for? Who was it that threatened Herod?
The Chief Priests, lawyers, and scribes of the law Informed Herod that this king was probably the Messiah, god’s anointed one, the chosen one. The Messiah was supposed to come from Bethlehem. Herod now knew where his opposition was coming from. He now knew this other king of the Jews was coming from Bethlehem.
He told the Magi that the one they were looking for was in Bethlehem and that when they had found him come back to the place, the seat of power, and tell Herod, so he could go and pay homage himself.
The wise men traveled away from riches, away from government, away from the loudness of Herod’s grasping for power. They had come a long way already; what were a few more miles. They knew that they searched from someone worth of worship. They were probably confused at the fact they were traveling away from the palace and the capital city itself. But, the star led them onward.
Eventually, they got to Bethlehem, and there, over a humble home, the star stopped. Here was the one born king of the Jews, the one they had traveled mile after dusty mile to see.
Filled with joy, they came in and witnessed for themselves the one worthy of homage: Jesus there with his mother, Mary.
And they worshiped.
Their hearts thrilled and rejoiced. Here was the king the light of the star had led them to. Here was the light that illuminates the darkness of chaos, war, pain, and death that covers us all. Here, before their eyes, was the king whose coming had been foretold by a celestial body.
This is the moment the gentiles received the promise. The glory of the lord wasn’t only for the Jews; the gentiles were in on the boundless riches of Christ. The light that was rising to draw all nations to itself was not only for Israel. All nations were called to come, to seek, to find, to worship.
This baby they witnessed wasn’t powerful, wasn’t mighty, wasn’t rich. In fact, I imagine it was a bit of a shock to Mary and joseph when the Wisemen gave extravagant gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to their two-year-old. They were humble people. Joseph was a carpenter, not a prince, governor, or even a religious leader. Jesus didn’t inherit a life of strength, might, and power.
Jesus was given a quiet life. A humble existence. These gentiles sought him out where he was to be found, in the lowly, quiet places where peace does its work. They didn’t call for the child to be brought to the palace; they came to him, arriving at his humble home, and gave homage to the Prince of Peace.
Herod was afraid of a baby because his identity was wrapped up in his power. He could rule. Just like Caesar could bring peace to an empire. Just like our government brings peace and democracy to the world. Through the tools of war, money, and might, peace is extended and enforced. Yet, at what cost?
True peace is found in this light that is for all people. True peace comes from the one who can bind us together, not with military might, but with love, light, life. Peace and grace are found in Jesus’ arms. In his heart is the love of god for all god’s children. The light of the world shines upon each one of us, scattering the darkness, the fear, the need to prove ourselves.
This is our gospel, the very wisdom of god. Peace isn’t found in the mighty sword swinging to fell its enemies. No, peace is found in a quiet home where a baby lays who emptied himself of all that it is to be god, becoming frail and small, that we might all know that god loves all of us. That’s what will bring us peace, that’s what unites us. In Christ, there is no Jew or gentile. In Christ, there is only god’s beloved children, accepted and loved just as we are.
Jesus has come not to rule with an iron fist, but to shepherd, to tend, to care for us, gathering us up tenderly to his very heart. This is the one the star rose for, revealing Christ to the world that the world might know peace. He is here to bring about justice for the poor, the lowly, the marginalized. He is the defender of the needy and the rescuer of the poor, the crusher of the oppressor. All those governments that crush, kill, and maim in war upon war after war, they will be stopped and dismantled. In Christ, all is made right, and we are given peace. Peace is the result of true justice, not retribution. The way of war is not what we were made for, and the light of the world shows us that.
So, what will you do with the light of the world?
You have been called out of the darkness. You have been called into peace with your neighbor. Those around you, those you love, and those you can’t stand. You have been given peace with god, and now we can provide peace to others.
What grudges hold you back? What fears keep you from reaching out? What little wars are you waging in your heart? Are you living like Herod, so afraid of losing power that you miss the light of the world calling you, gathering you, bringing you into justice and peace?
Let us all examine our hearts. It’s not only governments waging wars that need to be set right by the justice of Christ. Come to the light, find Jesus in that low, quiet place where peace does its work. Come and pay homage to the one born king of the world.
Originally published at https://culturalsavage.com on January 3, 2020.