Caesar or Christ?
Caesar Augustus (originally Octavian) was the first formally recognized emperor of the Roman Empire. In the history of this remarkable empire, even his story is outstanding. At the time he began to assume power there had been nearly 100 years of chaos and civil war and challenges to the empire's overextended boundaries. Augustus' rise was a glorious ride to ultimate power in an empire that has not been matched in extent even in modern times. Augustus brought unity to the government, stability to the provinces, and further expansion of the borders. He instigated a sound currency system, extended the highway system, developed a postal system, and fostered a free trade system among the provinces. He was loved by the people and eventually came to be worshipped as deity by many. His very name, "Augustus," granted to him by the state, means "the exalted."
It is indeed an irony, which only God could orchestrate on the stage of history, that in the shadow of the greatest glory of humanity its heavenly King should arrive in poverty — Jesus, the son of commoners, from an insignificant town, and born in a stable no less. The contrast could not be more pronounced between the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God. This is not at all what the Jews had in mind when they pictured the prophesied Messiah. They were thinking more of royal trappings and military power, more along the lines of a "Caesar." But they misunderstood the very scriptures that they were charged to bear.
It is not about the ways of this world: power, wealth, image, and carnal pleasures. These are things which only satisfy in surface ways, and only for a season — things which Satan would sell us as counterfeit to an eternal inheritance from God. Since Jesus' kingdom is not of this world it is only natural that He begin His incarnation here in the absence of those things that are most prized by that world. Jesus' life was lived out without the trappings of those things which would make Him most attractive to foolish men. "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2) All who would come to love Him would do so based on His character, His message, His wisdom, and His work alone. Jesus is like the prince who comes in common disguise to his maiden so that he might lure her by her heart and not by his holdings.
Augustus has passed away as has his kingdom, being broken by barbarian invaders and swallowed up by the advancing Church. As with every great hero and gleaming city built by the hands of men, the flame must eventually die. Greed, selfishness, and pride must eventually tarnish every bright hope that human imagination can invent. But on one lonely night, over the humble town of Bethlehem, God shone forth a light that was to burn only brighter over the course of history. "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6)
Heavenly Father, help us to see past the distractions and cheap glamour of this world. Grant us wisdom to understand that the world's treasures are hollow and gold plated idols, while following Your way has lasting value on earth and lays up for us treasure in heaven. Give us the strength and courage to live a life pleasing to You even when it may put us at odds with those around us. Help us always to remember that as Christians we are citizens of Your Kingdom even while we reside in a foreign land. Thank You for sending the Son to save us from ourselves, and for adopting us into that Kingdom.