There was once a politician so power-hungry that he insisted on gathering extensive data about his people
at whatever cost to them, in order to tax them more efficiently.
He cared nothing for the inconveniences and expenses involved in complying with his mandates. He was especially ignorant, hardhearted, or both, on questions pertaining to bringing new life into the world.
When he decreed that everyone should return to their ancestors’ native place, the better to keep track of them, he allowed no exemptions--not even for one obscure young woman who was already nine months along. She accompanied her husband to his native town, despite the danger of giving birth along the way.
She barely escaped that, only to be forced to deliver in a stable.
And so, God’s plans for the redemption of the human race were thwarted by the actions of a powerful government.
Wait, wrong ending.
Mary and Joseph didn’t overthrow the Roman Empire, but their cooperation with God's improbable plan eventually undermined it more thoroughly than the most successful revolutionary.
That's an encouraging thing for 21st-century Americans to think about. The Gospel narrative is so familiar that it can easily go in one ear and out the other, invisible as the family portrait you hung on the wall when you first moved in.
Prominent in the familiar story line are those literal-minded Jews and their this-worldly interpretations of God’s doings. They wanted a Messiah who would rescue them from the oppression of the Roman government.
If they had been a little more spiritual--like us, right?--they would have realized that the salvation they needed was of an entirely different kind, that the problem lay within their souls, not the external political forms of their society.
But, as we have reason to remember lately, when you live under a government bent on intruding on your life at every turn, it’s awfully easy to lose perspective. Standing stubbornly in the foreground of the picture are the prospects of political triumph, the costs of political failure.
Yes, we should strive for political victories. We should go ahead and rejoice at victories like this and this and this and this. Knuckling under to evil is not a mark of humility.
On the other hand, our peace of mind and heart can’t be at the mercy of our prospects for public victory. If we win, but without conversion of heart and openness to God’s plans, we lose. If we lose politically, but win the internal victory, God is not going to be thwarted.
The One who worked His plan despite the machinations of Augustus Caesar--who had the authority to “tax the whole world”!--can be trusted to work His will despite the HHS, the NSA, and the IRS. He's stronger than the TSA, the ATF, and the SCOTUS. Tyrants will come and go, but the battle belongs to the Lord.