The angelic choir sang the first song of Christmas: "Glory to God / in the highest / and on earth peace /among those of [God's] favor" (2:14).
Its theme was peace. But what made this heralded peace different than the Roman peace (Pax Romana) that already filled the world at Jesus’ birth? Or as John Dominic Crossan asks, “If the Roman Augustus had already established peace on earth, what was left for the Jewish Jesus to accomplish?” He goes on to say, “The difference was not in the that of peace but in its how, not in the purpose and intention of peace but in the mode and method of its accomplishment . . . . For Rome the mode and method was: religion, war, victory, peace . . . . But the messianic vision of the Jewish Jesus proclaimed a different program: religion, non-violence, justice, peace. Its mantra was peace through justice.”
He adds, “Victory's violence establishes not peace but lull -- until the next and always more violent round of war. The Christian challenge of Christmas is this: justice is what happens when all receive a fair share of God's world and only such distributive justice can establish peace on earth.”
While Crossan is correct in his analysis, he erroneously believes justice can be achieved here and now when governments distribute wealth equally to all. In reality, it will be achieved only when God establishes his kingdom on earth under the rule of Messiah. Until then, the church in submission to Christ is called to practice egalitarian justice, and thus demonstrate in part what the future kingdom will be like. In doing so, the church serves as an attractive alternative to the kingdoms of this world.