The CHRISTmas Manger

I'm not really introducing many of our guest speakers through this series but this one calls for a special mention. She is my mom. And she cried when I asked her to guest post about MY favorite Christmas tradition growing up. And I cried when I read what she wrote. And the pictures of that chubby-cheeked cherub? Yup, that's me. All that said, this is my mom. 

Most of the fun of Christmas is in the preparation, the getting ready. Sending cards, baking goodies, choosing gifts, and decorating everything all build up to the Big Day, when we take a little time to contemplate God and His amazing love for us. Then we show Him our gratitude with joyful celebration as we give gifts to others. 

Annie - aka Stringer Mama at the age of 2 1/2
That’s the attitude I wanted to convey to our children at Christmas time. It doesn't take many Christmases before those toddlers figure out who’s on the receiving end of most of those packages. So, to ward off the me-first attitude we all lean towards, I try to concentrate on what we’re giving for Christmas instead of what we want to receive. Let the little ones pass out gifts to everyone before opening their own. Be sure the older ones make their Christmas lists—a list of people they want to give to and what to give them. I keep my list going all year so when I notice something someone would like, I write it down so I don’t forget before Christmas time. We home-school, so we like to take Christmas break before the holiday so the kids can make gifts and help get ready. 

We usually get the tree at a tree farm around the first of December. Thanksgiving weekend is a little early for a real tree. It can get pretty dry by Christmas. It’s a family project picking out the perfect tree, and might take a while, depending on how cold it is. Then we take it home and decorate it the next day, when the branches aren't stiff from the cold. After Dad puts the star on the top of the tree, our own special tradition begins. 

I get the rough-looking manger, homemade from a 2 by 4, and put it next to the beautiful tree, front and center. No, I don’t put a baby doll in it to represent Jesus. Remember, the fun is in the preparation. I put a small bag of straw in the coat closet, where everyone knows where it is and can get to it. Then I remind everyone that we need enough straw in the manger by Christmas for the baby Jesus. They all know that when someone secretly does something for someone else, he can quietly go get a piece of straw and put it in the manger. The kindnesses are our gifts to Jesus and help us keep the holy day in the right perspective. 

It’s great fun to sneak around making someone’s bed or folding their laundry while trying not to get “caught”. The rules are flexible and I often tell one of the kids to go get a piece of straw when I “catch them being good”, especially when they do something without being told. 

Now, remember, the goal is to be ready for Christmas, to have plenty of straw in the manger for a bed for the baby Jesus. 

Christmas Eve finds our family at church, ready to worship our Savior. On Christmas morning, a beautiful baby doll, used only for this purpose, wrapped in strips of white flannel, is found lying in the manger. We read Luke’s record of Jesus’ birth, pray together, and celebrate God’s love for us by giving of ourselves.

Written by Marie Hansen, proud mom of Ann Stringer, beloved mother-in-law of Sam, and Grammy to their wonderful children. I’m a pastor’s wife, mom of eight (two in heaven, four grown up, and two at home), and have home-schooled since Ann was four (you figure it out). Thanks, Ann, for starting this blog because I wasn't on Facebook. It’s a blessing to see God using you. By the way, this tradition must be successful, because our youngest boy still races to be the first to put a present to give under the tree.

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  1. Oh this is just so awesome.
    How sweet!
    I love the idea!!

  2. Oh my word!!! I love this idea. Just love it. Have never heard of anything like this before. How precious. Thank you for sharing. I really feel like our family could benefit from this.


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