Filling the Manger with Straw

This Sunday, November 29, 2020 is the first Sunday in Advent. This story suggests a tradition that you can use to help your children prepare for the birth of Christ.

Pat Frye is my wife’s best friend and a member of the church we served in Cleveland. When she was a child, her family had a yearly tradition to help them prepare for birth of Christ.  At the beginning of December, her mother placed an empty manger on a coffee table where the children could see it. Beside the manger, she placed a small box of straw. 

 “I need your help to get ready for Jesus’ birth,” her mother told the kids.  “Jesus will be born on Christmas Eve, but his manger is empty.  We need to fill it with straw so he will have a warm place to sleep.  Each time you do something good for someone else, you may take a few pieces of straw from the box and put it into the manger.” 

Thus began a month of preparation for the birth of Jesus.  When Pat and her mom baked Christmas cookies for an elderly neighbor, they each put a small pinch of straw into the manger.  When her older brother read her a story, he added some straw.  By Christmas Eve, they had prepared a soft, sweet bed.  As they read the Christmas story and put the Christ Child into the manger, they knew they had each done their part to welcome him.

Pat’s mom taught her an important spiritual lesson—the way we show love for God is by loving others.  The Apostle John tells us,

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.  And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (I John 4:20-21)

The weeks leading up to Christmas are terribly busy and frantic. There is so much to do that we can easily lose our focus. However, the most important thing we can do is to share God’s love with those who need it. 

Pat Frye passed down her mother’s tradition, not only to her own children but also to her Sunday School children. Perhaps you would like to make this tradition your own. What are you going to do to fill the manger with straw?

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