“Bethlehem has opened Eden: come, let us see”
“Bethlehem has opened Eden: come, let us see.” (Orthodox Kontakion of the Nativity)
After his brief historiographical preamble, St. Luke begins his gospel account in verse 5 with, “In the time of Herod king of Judea…” and his account of Jesus’ birth with, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria).” These are signals that the birth of Christ will take on political dimensions as alternatives to this world’s political status quo.
Our confidence in empire today is only a continuation of the worship of empire in the time when Jesus was born.
The world’s political status quo in first-century Palestine tried to kill the new meek and humble king whose birth was meant to usher in the kingdom of God. And when the world’s political status quo tried to arrest him as an adult, he refused to call down his legions of angels to defeat his enemies, he told Peter to put away his sword when he tried to rescue Jesus through violence, and he told Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (Jn. 18:36). And before he forgave his executioners while hanging on the cross, he told us to take up our own crosses too as, in the words of St. Paul, citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20).
Or put in today’s nomenclature, the political status quo tried to kill a new meek and humble President whose birth was meant to usher in a new country founded on divine virtues that permeates the world while transcending its political borders and machinations. He has no military at all and dissolves any militias that his wayward followers try to assemble to protect him and his country. And he tells us to participate in this new peaceable and compassionate divine country as citizens who inherit the earth through meekness and who eschew violence of any kind.
Bethlehem has invited us into Eden; the new Adam born of the new Eve has invited us out of the world whose political priorities and standards have Adam and Eve’s fear, pride, and disobedience as their foundation.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!