The Miracle of Christmas 2023
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.”
That’s the opening of the Nativity story in the Gospel of Luke. It is an unusual prelude: a universal monarch possessing the power and might to tax — not a kingdom, not a city, not a province, but the world. This is total power in the worldly sense, the absolute height to which any man may ascend. Caesar Augustus had it, his writ stretching from the Black Forest to Africa to the Euphrates. The contours of rule and its exercise were essentially the same for millennia before him — and they are the same today, millennia after him. He was a man of might and power, as are all rulers. But he was also a mere man, born Gaius Octavius Thurinus, and he lived and died like all men do.
Caesar Augustus faced judgment like all men do, too.
We do not know the fate of his soul and it is not our place to speculate upon it. If the thief on the cross can be saved at the moment of his death, what mercy is denied anyone in repentance, including kings? But we do know Who judged him, and this is the extraordinary thing illuminated by the Evangelist in the second chapter of his work: that the decree for the world’s taxation led a humble couple from Nazareth into Bethlehem, where was born in the humility of a manger the great King of all.
Caesar Augustus could hardly enter a room of any palace in his vast empire without an announcement of his presence and the genuflection of those present. The baby born in Bethlehem, at once a deeply vulnerable infant and simultaneously fully God, was given no such reception. The mighty of the empire bowed upon the appearance of Caesar, and the infant Christ was visited and honored first by simple shepherds. Yet who possessed the greater power? Who is with us still?
The Gospel of Luke in its Nativity story therefore goes from king to King, beginning with the Caesar and ending with the Christ to whom even Caesar kneels. This is the miracle of Christmas. This is the promise, already fulfilled and still held forth, of God to His people.
On this Christmas, I invite you to reflect upon the gift we are given — not from God, but of God, who came Himself into the world as us, and for us. And I ask you to think on our own imperative to ourselves become mirrors in whom Christ is reflected — that we may see Him in others, and that we live so others see Him in ourselves. Our work for our country is properly part of this imperative, and properly directed toward that end. We do not live in the age of Augustus, but we have our own Caesars — and we have a republic, not an empire, to which we are subjected.
But the good news today is that even as we work for our republic, the Kingdom is at hand.
Merry Christmas to all —
Brooke Leslie Rollins
President and CEO
The America First Policy Institute