Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Last Straw

Tradition is very important to our boys. The holidays are filled with traditions for our (turkey, stuffing and all the fixings, Christmas cookies), events (caroling, looking at lights, ring and run), movies (White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, The Christmas Box, Christmas Carol) but one of the most important focal points of our holiday season is the Manger in the Straw. This tradition started many years ago after reading a book called "The Last Straw" and has become my children's favorite tradition.

The day after Thanksgiving we place an empty manger on a tray filled with straw. My 12 year old made the manger several years ago to replace the cardboard one that came with the book. We place all of our names in a hat and draw. The name you draw is top secret!! Your goal, for the next week, is to do as many acts of love as possible for that person without getting caught. For each secret act of love that you do, you may place a straw in the manger. The idea is to build a soft and comfortable bed, made from love, for the Christ child who will arrive Christmas Eve. We draw names every week, so each week you are serving someone different.

Because we do not have network T.V., cable or satellite, and we aren't in the stores a lot, my children are not exposed to all the brainwashing that goes on trying to sell them the latest useless toy. But their focus still tended to be on "what will I get" instead of "what can I give". The manger certainly helped to realign their priorities. Bickering seemed to take a back seat to loving kindness - everyone was thinking of the Christ child and how they could serve Him through kindness to others.

It is amazing how this simple tradition changed our focus and the atmosphere in our home. Sometimes a child will find their bed made, their chores done or their laundry folded. I have found dishwashers emptied, or filled, clothes folded, my bed turned down with a cookie left on the pillow, animals cared for and the list goes on. Arguments stop before they really start and everyone seems to be thinking of others first.

Sometimes I can tell that the chore was done by one barely able to complete the task - but the love shines through. Secret acts done for neighbors, church members and others outside our family circle earn fatter straws, or multiple straws. Little hands are constantly testing the manger - is it soft enough for Jesus? On Christmas Eve day the pace for loving acts really picks up....who will place the last straw?

Once the bed has been determined to be suitable for the baby on Christmas Eve, the hunt begins to find him - just like the Wisemen searched for the babe, so do the children. Once found he is lovingly placed in the manger that has been filled with hundreds of straws...each one representing an act of love.

My hope for you this season is that you too find the Christ child who was born crucified for you.

Merry Christmas and God Bless You!


  1. What an awesome tradition and thing to teach your children.

  2. What an awesome tradition and thing to teach your children.


  3. when i was a child, my mother hid the baby Jesus until after church on Christmas eve. It was such a special time when we could finally add him to the manger. How wonderful that you have such a specail tradition with your family.


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