Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to preach the twenty sixth chapter of Exodus. We have been laboring through Exodus for quite a while, and during this Christmas season it may have seemed strange to read and preach a full chapter from Exodus which was nothing more than a full blueprint of a tent reduced down to paragraph form. To many, that would seem like a missed opportunity. To others, perhaps a boring expository sermon. I must admit, in my first reading of the text I was thinking to myself, “How will I preach this chapter?” And then I started digging into the text and looking at the significance of the tabernacle structure. The more I looked into the tabernacle and the more I considered the story of redemption, it became abundantly clear that this old tent had much to do with Christmas!
What was taking place back in the story of Exodus was not just about getting away from a bad king named Pharaoh. It wasn’t just to pursue a land of promise. The story of Exodus is the story of redemption. While the name “Jesus” may not appear on the pages of the Exodus account, He is the central figure in the story of God’s plan to save sinners. Just as we read about the birth of Jesus, we must note that the birth of Christ was about much more than a visits from royalty or heralding angels. The birth of Jesus was about the salvation of wretched sinners. However, as we look into the birth of Christ, we may be surprised to see the connection between the incarnation of God in human flesh and the mobile tent structure detailed in Exodus 26.
John 1:9-14 reads:
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The key word in verse 14 is “dwelt” which is translated from the Greek term – σκηνόω. This word literally means to “tabernacle” or “pitch a tent.” When we consider the reality that God “tabernacled” among us, it’s a humbling thing indeed. Yet, that term in John 1:14 connects baby Jesus to the tent of Exodus 26. God was coming to man for the purpose of worship and salvation in Exodus 26. He would manifest His presence in the most holy place of the tabernacle. In the person of Jesus, God came to man in human flesh through the womb of a virgin. Jesus literally pitched His tent with man. As one man said, “Jesus moved into our neighborhood.”
For the nation of Israel, they were amazed that Almighty God would come to them and His presence would be contained in the tent. J.I. Packer reminds us – “The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.”
Kings are born to live in a palace – separated from the people – but ruling over the people. However, Jesus was the King who was born to live in our neighborhoods. And – this isn’t Mr. Roger’s neighborhood either! This is a dangerous, vile, hostile world. Yet, Jesus came to live close to us – with us – in a dangerous world. He came as a man. The God of all creation came to live among us.
As we consider the first advent, we must remember that God the Son was born among us for a reason. It wasn’t just to live among us. It was in order to die for us. Let our hearts rejoice during this advent season as we recall the miracle of Jesus’ birth. Praise Him.
It is my prayer that your home and your hearts are filled with the joy of Christ during this advent season,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
For more information on advent, please see the first article in this series: