george hancock stefanFrom time to time, I hear it from both politicians and religious leaders – politics and religion should not mix. There are people who feel that politicians should be sterilized of any affinity with religion. No religious symbols of any kind should be in public places, people should not speak about their religious beliefs in public, and there is a familiar statement that religion/s have caused all the wars of this world. At the same time, pastors are told by many of their congregants that they should not use political illustrations or even hold one political party over the other.

As I look to the birth of Jesus Christ, I cannot help but see that all the components are mixed. Quirinius, the governor of Syria, implemented a census of Judea because he was responsible for that territory. The census was decreed by Caesar Augustus in Rome and, while a census was odious to the Jews and Herod was the king of Judea, they had to submit themselves to the ruling of authorities from the distance – Rome.  One of my students who was a lawyer mentioned in my class that all politics leads to taxation. Rome wanted to show how big it had become, but it also wanted to increase its taxes on the conquered people.  For the good of the people, they were willing to increase taxes!

Herod’s palace is the place for the worst political intrigues. No one is safe. Herod was known as Herod the Great because of his architectural skills and his cunning politics in pleasing the Jews, even though they considered him an outcast. The Romans did not trust him, but they needed a tyrant in an area that they considered one of the most difficult places to govern. To maintain his throne, Herod killed those who he felt were a threat to him. This included a couple of his wives and almost all of his sons. The fantastic news that the Magi were looking for the newborn King of the Jews was the worst news that Herod had ever heard because it threatened his power.

We have reduced religion to a private relationship between an individual and his or her God. This is completely antithetical to the preaching of Jesus. Jesus came proclaiming a new Kingdom. He is not known as the Peasant of Peace, but the Prince of Peace. That is a pretty strong political term. He seeks to be recognized as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – again some significant political terms.

John Calvin wrote that in Jesus all the terms reside – Prophet, King, and Priest. The Prophet signifies vision and correct teaching. The Priest is the one who sacrifices and intercedes for His people. The King is the one who will rule. Herod in his duplicity speaks the truth, “Go and find him in order that I may go and worship Him.” If Jesus is strictly another poor Jewish boy born in the mangers of Bethlehem then this is insignificant. But if that baby is the King of glory, then he will change not only the people but also all the political systems of the world.


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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...