The protest in every Christmas carol

By Jarrod McKenna
December 31, 2014

In verse 1 of chapter 2 of Luke’s gospel we are introduced to a word of hope, a person who in the ancient Roman empire was referred to as “Divine, Son of God, God, God from God, Lord, Redeemer Liberator, and Savior of the World” and his name is…

No. Not Jesus.

Caesar Augustus.

All these terms are first used of Caesar Augustus. We use them in reference to Jesus because the gospel is a counterclaim against every other power. Every Christmas carol is a protest song. That is, every Christmas carol is a protest song if we realise Christmas isn’t about God’s ticket to escape the world and its pain. Christmas instead is the powerful way God shows up 'in person' to transform the world and our pain.

Both imperial Rome and the early church claimed that their good news came from Heaven. Both announce a gospel of peace, here on earth. The Roman Empire believed it of Caesar Augustus – the early church believed it only of Jesus the Messiah.

Both those who claimed Caesar was Lord and those who claimed Jesus was Lord proclaimed a divine conception and a predestined Saviour. Christ and Caesar’s birth stories were competing and noncompatible claims that a new world had started and a new start for the human race was underway. Both had the same goal: Peace on earth for the entire world.

But if you miss the different ways of getting to the world God dreams of, you miss the gospel. In the last Christmas sermon of his life – three months before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. preached:

“It's one of the strangest things that all the great military geniuses of the world have talked about peace. The conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace, Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon, were akin in seeking a peaceful world order. If you will read Mein Kampf closely enough, you will discover that Hitler contended that everything he did in Germany was for peace... And the leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace. What is the problem? They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek… it is a means by which we arrive at that goal.”

For some, this Bible reading with its talk of empires is too political. For others its talk of angels is too spiritual. But the gospel wants us to open our eyes to the empires and open our ears to the angels and their protest songs...

Continued here at Sojourners:

* Christmas on Ekklesia:

© Jarrod McKenna is the National Director of Common Grace (, a teaching pastor at Westcity Church (, co-founder of First Home Project (, and prominent figure in the Love Makes A Way ( movement for asylum seeker justice in Australia.

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