“On earth peace to men of good will.” Or, as one modern biblical translation has it today, “(O)n earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Or, if you are a King James fan, “(O)n earth peace, good will toward men.” More popularly, “Peace on Earth and good will toward men.”
Regardless of where you fall on the age-old debate on the exact translation of the Annunciation to the Shepherds episode in the Nativity story in the Gospel of Luke, the sentiment has come to reflect the meaning of Christmas through the ages.
I’m not a fan of Christmas. I prefer more serenity in my holidays and Christmas in 21st century America is anything but serene. Yes, one could argue that Christmas is what you make of it, but it is hard to avoid the madhouse that Christmas has become.
Despite that, the life story of a young stonemason who, in three short years, forever changed the course of human history, is still the greatest story ever told, even if you don’t believe he was the Christ. Think about it: Most of the world is preparing to celebrate his birth some 2,000 years later, and it’s not just the religious. Even nonbelievers.
It seems so unfortunate, though, that Christmas has degenerated into an orgy of unbridled commercialism. That is not to say I am opposed to commercialism and people are certainly free to mark holidays however they wish. Still, that does not mean I can’t dream of a Christmas holiday filled with tranquility rather than Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all the other little gimmicks retailers use to guide the flocks to their stores.
But I digress.
In all the wonder of the story of Jesus’ birth, there is one viewpoint that seems to be overlooked: the danger of big government.
Yes, even in the greatest story ever told, from the birth of Jesus of Nazareth through his execution and Resurrection, we can learn a lesson about the dangers of big government. It is especially important this year given the widespread attempt by liberals in this country to co-opt Jesus as a way of rationalizing their immoral and downright criminal attempt to redistribute wealth by stealing it from the producers and giving it to the takers.
Now, I am writing only about the story as told in the Gospels recognizing that it might not be historically accurate in all respects. Even if historically inaccurate, though, it still serves as a warning tale.
Right from the beginning, big government is the villain. In the story, St. Joseph and his very pregnant wife were forced by big government to undergo a perilous journey. Only a big, uncaring Leviathan would force a woman ready to give birth to walk or perhaps hop on a donkey and travel 80 miles, which in those days would have taken at least four days, maybe longer given Mary’s advanced pregnancy.
Nor would this have been a safe journey. The danger of such a voyage for a pregnant woman in those primitive times is obvious. Also, there was a certain amount of lawlessness in the area as well as wild animals.
And why would they have to take such a risk? Because, according to St. Luke, Caesar Augustus declared that every person in the Roman world had to be enrolled, or counted.
So they risked life and limb and their unborn child for the bureaucratic state.
But it doesn’t stop there. An underlying subplot throughout the life of Jesus is the battle between heavenly authority and secular authority. Jesus, as evidence by his actions and teachings, was opposed to big government. This culminated in his horrific execution by the powers of the state. Only government can legally kill someone to silence them. Though, as we know today, Jesus’s murder at the hands of big government was not the end of his message, but the beginning. And it is still reverberating to us today, some 2,000 years later.
Perhaps the real message of Jesus’ life and death is that there are limits to the power of big government to silence an idea.
Buon Natale. And may you find some serenity this Christmas.