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The Old Barn and the New Baby

December 20, 2021

When I was a kid, my family had an ornate, wooden table that sat in the living room. For most of the year it held a marble chess set and was usually ignored. For a few weeks each year, however, it was transformed into a place of honor. When it was time to decorate the house for Christmas, the chess set was removed and replaced with our nativity scene which sat on top of a royal blue satin tablecloth. Like most nativity scenes, ours included a couple of barn animals, a shepherd with sheep, three wisemen, an angel, and of course, Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus. Many of my childhood memories have faded over the years, but I think I remember that we used to take turns setting it up. I am the youngest of four siblings and each year one of us got the honor of placing the little figurines in and around the old, rugged barn. 

When it was my turn to set up the nativity scene, I always wanted to find a creative way to arrange the characters. I thought I was using my imagination and making it look better than the boring way the others would do it. I even remember trying to use my Play-Doh to attach the angel to the roof of the barn, but that never worked very well.

Thinking back now I realize that no matter how we arranged the pieces, the scene would always look pretty much the same. Jesus was laid in the manger, which was obviously in the center of the barn. After that, it didn’t matter where we put the other figurines, because they were all turned so they could “see” Baby Jesus. The shepherd was making his way to the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes that the angel had told him about. The wise men all carried their gifts to the Christ child as they followed the star. Mary and Joseph were each on one knee as they tilted their heads and looked lovingly at their baby boy, while the angel stood close by watching guard and singing praises. Even the barn animals were laying quietly in the hay and looking intently at their Creator. 

The old nativity scene wound up looking pretty much the same year after year, regardless of who set it up, because it always focused on the same center point. Jesus was at the center of the scene. All attention was on Him. The Light of the World was shining in the darkness and all of creation paused to welcome Him. May that still be our experience today. In the midst of parties, shopping, family gatherings, traveling, putting up lights, watching our favorites movies, etc. etc., let us not forget the Baby at the center of it all. Jesus was not born so that we could have a holiday. We have a holiday because Jesus was born. We celebrate Christmas as a way of rearranging our lives as necessary to make sure He is at the center. We rejoice this time of year because Christ has come, God’s promise has been fulfilled, and we can find life and light in Him. 

It was just an old set of figurines and an awkwardly shaped barn. It was little more than a toy; but it told a story. The story of the Baby born in a barn is just the beginning. The manger mystery leads to the hillsides of teaching and the streets of miracles. Those streets lead us to the hill called Calvary. The hill directs us to the empty tomb, then the mountaintop, and eventually a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Like the figurines in the nativity scene, let’s keep our eyes on Him, and not let anything distract us from the One in center stage. More than anything else, we need to see Him, to hear Him call, and follow Him home.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Isaiah 9:6

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