Kylene reminded me last night about a Christmas tradition in our family when the girls were growing up. I made a manger out of Popsicle sticks. Then I would fill a jar with straw and place it next to the manger. During the whole month of December you were to do something nice and ANONYMOUS for someone in the family. When you did, you could put a piece of straw in the manger. The goal was to have a manger full of straw for Jesus on Christmas morning. The idea was that each time you did something nice anonymously for someone else, you were doing it for Jesus.
I think we started the tradition when Kylene was about 4 and continued until the girls were all teenagers. Sometimes they'd groan about it but I didn't take them very seriously because it wouldn't be long before they'd start enjoying finding things to do for others. I limited it to family because, to be honest, family is often the most neglected. It's easy to do nice things for friends and even strangers at Christmastime, but not as easy to serve family.
This was a simple way to keep Jesus the focus of Christmas. In spite of all the concerts, programs, parties of the season, there was always an empty manger in the background slowly being filled with hay. It also encouraged the girls to nice things for their sisters without bragging about it. I was often privy to their sneaky good deeds. I'd watch them make each other's beds or wash dishes or put their things away and they really enjoyed it. The sneaky factor was a great draw.
I think this tradition helped keep us from getting quite so grumpy with each other during December too. It's hard to be crabby and do nice things for someone else.
So, here's to Christmas past and a manger full of hay.
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