12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Always wash your hands after you visit a barn. Be careful where you step. Wipe your sandals off when you leave. You may even want to change your clothes or take a shower. Barns are dirty. They smell bad. They are usually crowded and noisy. Barns are cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Barns are for animals, not people. They are no place for a family to live or for a baby to be born. What’s more, a feeding trough is one of the most unsanitary places for a newborn to sleep.
Imagine taking your family to live in a barn for a few days.
o How would you prepare meals?
o What would you do to stay warm?
o What steps would you take to stay clean?
o Would the smell bother you?
o What would you do about your neighbors; the cows, donkeys, and other animals living next to you?
Study the Word
There is nothing majestic or worshipful about a barn. It is not exactly the kind of place you would expect to meet God. It certainly was not what the people were accustomed to. In ancient days, Solomon was commissioned to build a temple (1 Kings 5:4-5). Unlike a barn, the temple was a perfect place for God to dwell. It was one of the most magnificent structures of its day. In Solomon’s mind, there was nothing too good for God. Solomon spared no expense. The “House of God” would be made of only the very best materials. The craftsmanship would be the finest money could buy. The Bible gives precise details on how the temple was built:
In 1 Kings (5:1–18; 6:1–38; 7:13–51)
o The size of the Temple (6:2)
o The exterior (6:3–10):
o The interior (6:14–36):
o The fixtures in the Temple (7:13–51)
o See an artist’s depiction by going to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFnWTz-7I0E or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B37Mp6mhs3A&feature=related
In the book of 2 Chronicles we read how King Solomon had a very clear understanding of what the temple represented.
o It would be the focal point of all religious activity (6:2-40)
o It would be a place where God would dwell (6:2, 41-42)
o It would be a place where sacrifices were made (7:1-3)
The temple was a place of worship. It was a place to hear from God and it was a place where sacrifices were made to pay for the sins of the people. This was all part of the Old Covenant God made with his people. But the Old Covenant was incomplete. Jesus Christ came to bring about a new covenant—God’s perfect plan that would bring salvation to everyone who believes. Read the following verses and discuss the implications:
· Hebrews 8:6-10
· Hebrews 9:11-14
· Philippians 2:5-10
· John 14:6
· Mark 15:37-39; Hebrews 6:19-20
· Acts 7:48-49
· (Note: Hebrews 9 gives dramatic details about the temple and how Christ has established a new covenant with us)
Have your students consider the following questions:
o If you received news that God was visiting your city, would you expect to find Him in a magnificent building or something more humble like a stable? Why?
o Why would it be good for God to visit in a temple or cathedral?
o Why would it be good for God to visit in a stable?
People often think God dwells in particular place. They see a certain location or building as somehow being more holy—a place where they can “find” God. The good news is that God can be found anywhere. He is just as comfortable in a barn as He is a temple. He is just as at home in a cathedral as he is your living room or on the streets among the destitute. You will find him in the homes of prostitutes, tax collectors, and kings. God is just as comfortable with silk and cashmere as he is with swaddling clothes.
While God can be found anywhere, He only goes where He is welcome. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Christ was born in a barn because He was welcome there. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)
· Acts 7:48-50 implies that all of nature points to the glory (presence) of God. This week read Psalm 104 and then take a nature walk. Allow the beauty of nature to help you understand God and feel His presence.
· Walk into your local church. Pay attention to all of the reminders of God’s goodness and grace. How do the structure, icons, decorations, furniture, and lighting help you recognize God’s goodness?
· Find a place of your own--A place where the sound, lighting, smells, and furniture help you relax and pay attention to God. Make it a point to go to this place each day. Take time to study the Bible, pray, and focus on God.