23 February 2019
‘And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.’ You remember those memorable words from the beginning of the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel. They herald the birth of the Christchild.
Every time they are read on Christmas Eve, I think about Caesar Augustus and wonder about his appearance in the Christmas Gospel. He pins down the incarnation to a specific time frame, confirmed by the Emperor’s dates.
Recently, I came across Augustus. Seneca, a contemporary of Christ, wrote about him. In his helpful, ‘On the Shortness of Life’, he describes the Emperor as ‘the deified Augustus’ and brings him in to illuminate an interesting point.
Apparently, he prayed to the gods for rest and leisure and looked forward to that day when in the words of Seneca, he could ‘lay aside his own greatness’. It was a long time in coming but, in the longing, he discovered something helpful.
‘Since the delightful reality is still a long way off, my longing for that much desired time has led me to anticipate some of its delight by the pleasure arising from words.’ Although he couldn’t enjoy any leisure, there was some enjoyment in its anticipation!