Son of God. Savior and Benefactor. Divine One. High Priest. Lord and God.
In the first couple decades of the Christian era, these were titles not of Jesus, but of the Roman Caesars. As the Roman state grew from a small republic on the Italian peninsula to a Mediterranean empire from Britain to Palestine, the leaders themselves “grew” with ever more centralized political, military and religious power.
While the Romans were relatively tolerant of most religions in their pluralistic domain, titles such as these indicated their desire to be seen as divinely appointed overlords of their subject peoples, benevolently ruling over them to promote justice and peace –– but of course brutally crushing anyone who challenged the Roman vision of “justice” and “peace.”
So when we read of the birth of another Son of God, Savior and Benefactor, Divine One, High Priest, Lord and God . . . this is subversive stuff! The emperors and kings of Jesus’ day claimed authority from the loftiness of their estate and the might of their armies; the power of Christ comes from the humbleness of his birth, his willing identification with the lowly, his loving service to the poorest, his suffering death on a Roman cross, victim of those other “saviors and benefactors.”
Through the centuries, many political, military and religious leaders – some with even the best intentions – have sought to bring about justice and peace according to their vision for it. And history has seen the collapse of countless “utopias” because none of these best intentions can truly overcome the pride, selfishness, arrogance, greed and sin of the human heart.
The only one who can is Christ, the Son of God who comes to us not to conquer and control and demand, but who lives among us in meekness, forgives us in our brokenness, heals us of our infirmities and pours out his life to renew our lives. As we celebrate again the birth of our true Savior and Benefactor, Lord and God, may he be reborn in our hearts to rule with divine justice and peace, mercy and love.
Blessed Christmas to All!