18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been inundated with news of the royal family of England at the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. What’s especially interesting to me are all the rules and regulations regarding her funeral; where people stand, what’s appropriate attire for the royal family and for visiting dignitaries, and a whole host of other things, right down to the carriage that carried the queen to her final resting place.
It may seem a little strange for us as Americans as we try to understand all the formalities that are observed but the reality is that whenever a high-ranking foreign dignitary comes to any country, they arrive with great care to honor given their status as well as for their safety.
But not Jesus. Matthew’s narrative of Jesus' birth is incredibly beautiful, but I’m struck by the simplicity and vulnerability of His birth. Matthew notes that Jesus is the King of the Jews, the Messiah, the Ruler who will “shepherd my people Israel” making Jesus the Son of God.
Yet, He is born into very humble circumstances.
Even Jesus' own people, who have been longing for His arrival, don’t acknowledge His birth.
There is no fanfare, no military honors, no parade, or palace welcome for Jesus. In fact, we already have the sense that Herod the king is threatened by the birth of Jesus.
Anyone in the first century reading this account would be caught off guard by the fact that the ones who do greet and honor Jesus at His birth are foreigners who travel to Jerusalem in search of Jesus with the express purpose of honoring Him with gifts and worshipping Him.
But underlying it all is a sense that God is at work and in control as the Lord fulfills His upper story promises. Joseph and Mary were journeying to Bethlehem at that time despite living in Nazareth, which was far away. The star appeared to the Magi and led them to Jesus. The Magi came with gifts that would later be used to help the family escape to Egypt and avoid the murderous plans of Herod, who wants to destroy Jesus. Those plans are thwarted by the Lord as the Magi are warned in a dream not to return to Herod and they take another route back home.
God is in control and fulfilling His promises and, in doing so, giving us the greatest gift we could ever hope to receive in this newborn child; the gift of Himself and all that will come through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
In Matthew’s account, the Magi, the outsiders, are the only ones who come to Jesus bearing gifts that are fit to honor Jesus as King. The response of these outsiders to Jesus tugs at us today, calling us to seek out Jesus and bring Him the very best we can to honor our King. What will you bring?
God bless you, and know that you are constantly in my prayers.