In July 2013, crowds began to gather at key sites around London. Above all, Buckingham Palace and St. Mary’s Hospital attracted reporters, cameramen, and well-wishers, all awaiting the birth of a future monarch. When they received the news on July 22 that a son, later named George, had been born, the assembled crowds burst into joyous cheers.
That response could hardly be more different from the one that greeted the birth of Jesus. Matthew tells of no cheering crowds or throngs of well-wishers. Rather, Jesus’ birth initially attracted little attention. Other than Mary and Joseph, the only ones who seemed to notice were the Magi, astrologers from the east who devoted themselves to understanding the obscure realities of the heavens. Perhaps because they focused upon heavenly things, they recognized the significance of this overlooked event, identifying this humble peasant child as “the king of the Jews” (2:2). And when they shared the news, Jesus’ birth went from being shrouded in obscurity to being overshadowed by anxiety, for Herod and “all Jerusalem with him” were “disturbed” by the prospect of another king (2:3).
Matthew’s Gospel hails Jesus as King, but the depiction of Him has already given many clues—such as the obscurity of His birth as a peasant child, not in the center of power but in a town one might write off as the “least” of its region (2:6)—that suggest Jesus is hardly an ordinary monarch. This month we will focus upon Matthew’s Gospel, seeking to understand more about this unique King and His kingdom. In doing so, may we better prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15), later this month and to live as faithful members of His kingdom throughout our lives.
Few paid attention to Jesus’ birth at the time, even though it changed history. Later in Matthew, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed, “the smallest of all seeds” (13:32). The works of God often begin as small things that are easily overlooked. In what small things might God’s work be growing in your life? How can you nurture them?