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Week 1 December 2023, Devotion Part 1

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!  Luke 2:14


Real peace, the naysayer imagines, is marked by the absence of conflict. Hence real peace is not possible. The media are experts at dispensing pessimism. They report on slaughtered UN peacekeepers on contested foreign soil, and on local political hotbeds of heated dissent and character assassination. Oddly, the question of peace may hit home the hardest for the weary parents of young siblings who squabble incessantly. Some greeting card artists live in ivory towers. Those specializing in peace symbols love drawing small children holding hands and circling the globe. To have them on their best behavior, they dress the little peace ambassadors in native costumes that stress the harmonious beauty of our global diversity. So much for cute paper kids…


The perennial favorite among peace symbols on Christmas cards is the dove with the olive branch in its beak. Why not the raven with its superior intelligence and beguiling playfulness? Both birds were passengers on Noah’s ark and served as his scouts after the waters began to recede. Noah, marooned on a mountain range, first dispatched the raven. It flew away and never returned; there was an abundance of carrion to land and to feed on. When Noah dispatched the dove, it arrived back at the ark exhausted. In vain it had looked for dry land but refused to rest on slimy rocks and rotting flesh. Noah opened the window and tenderly stretched out his hand to draw the dove inside. Seven days later it scouted again and returned with a freshly plucked olive leaf in its mouth. Then Noah knew that life was sprouting from the cleansed earth and it was safe to disembark and turn the whole menagerie loose (see Genesis 8) (Part 1 of 2)


Comment: We sometimes get a song stuck in our head and deplorably, scientists call it an “earworm.”  Well, Pax Romana has wormed its way into my gray matter and I wonder why.  Was it perhaps a recent Jeopardy! clue, or the unpacking of God’s wrath by Paul in chapter one of his letter to the Romans?  Thanks to Luke’s Nativity narrative, I’m beginning to have an inkling.  The Roman Peace started with the Caesar Augustus of Luke 2:1 in 27 BC and ended with Marcus Aurelius in 192 AD. Tumultuous years had followed the assassination of Julius Caesar. His adopted son Augustus led Rome’s transformation from republic to an empire.  He never claimed the title of Caesar for himself; Marcus Aurelius was the last of only five good emperors of Rome’s golden age.  During the more than 200 years of relative peace and stability, its builders invented concrete among other advantageous things and so put in place the infrastructure that later allowed the Gospel to travel into all of the then-known world.  Marcus Aurelius broke tradition by anointing his son Commodus as his successor.  His reign was marked by decadence and incompetence and ended in 192 A.D. with his assassination.  Civil war broke out and ended the golden age of the Pax Romana. Christ’s birth ushered in the Pax Dei, God’s universal peace. The infrastructure of Salvation for the only way to His Father, the “narrow road,” had its genesis in Bethlehem’s manger, where the Prince of Peace had begun to flesh out the Word that was God, and had come from God.


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