Jesus’ Birth in a Barn Had You in Mind
by Wayne Stiles
It must have seemed really strange. Honestly, it still does.
Two thousand years of waiting for the Messiah, and He is born in a barn and laid in a feed trough.
(Shepherd in modern Israel, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)
If it had been up to us, we would have given God’s Son a room in the finest five-star hotel in Bethlehem. But Jesus got only a one-star motel—and God had to provide the star!
When the shepherds hurried into Bethlehem to find the baby of whom the angels spoke, the wonder of God’s power must have seemed a strange contradiction to the conditions they found.
- No halos hovered over Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.
- Instead, they saw a poor couple surrounded by animals and the smell of manure.
Actually, the crudity of Jesus’ birth story offers really good news.
Because it had you in mind.
Modern Bethlehem and Jesus’ Birth Story
The merchant shops of modern Bethlehem make use of the town’s famous event by selling mass-produced olive wood nativity sets and Christmas paraphernalia. Not even in Bethlehem can we escape the commercialism of Christmas.
But just east of the city lies a large pasture known as “The Shepherds’ Field.”
- Here the modern traveler can exchange Christmas shopping for the Christmas story.
- No olive wood sets . . . just olive trees. No merchants hawking trinkets . . . just some local children holding lambs in their arms.
- This rocky meadow represents the likely location of the angel’s announcement to the shepherds that first Christmas night.
(Photo: Shepherds’ Fields near Bethlehem, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)
Born to Shepherd. Born to Die as a Lamb.
The shepherds guarded flocks of sheep that were raised for sacrifice in Jerusalem. They heard the words from the angelic herald:
Today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. —Luke 2:11
These words gave a glimpse of what salvation would cost: the Babe in the manger would become the final sacrificial Lamb (Luke 2:11-12; John 1:29).
Jesus—just like the flocks the shepherds pastured that night—was born to die in Jerusalem, only five miles up the road from Bethlehem.
(Photo: Sheep grazing on Christmas in Israel, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)
Jesus’ Birth Story Had You in Mind
Why would the Lord first announce the Messiah’s birth to lowly shepherds? Why would Jesus’ birth story begin in a barn?
Scripture reveals that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise,” and Jesus Himself would later pray:
I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. —Luke 10:21
God choose such an ignoble beginning for such an important birth, perhaps for the same reason He would choose such an ignoble death for such an exemplary life.
Because God had you in mind.
The Lord knew that we—lowly sinners—needed a Savior. Jesus came to the lowly, lived a humble life, and died an ignoble death. All so that we could have our sins forgiven by faith in Him.
And so that we could live forever in glory. With no more manure.
Question: When’s the last time you were in a barn? What does the crudity of Jesus’ birth story teach you?