The decorations are finally in place. I’m ready for Christmas to begin. I always put out framed pictures of the kids from Christmas long ago. Oh, how I miss when my boys were young.
As I think of how the time has flown by, I remember one particular tradition I started when they were young. I put together what I called the manger devotion. We built a small, very primitive manger trough to hold baby Jesus. My baby Jesus was a simple stuffed panty hose with magic marker face wrapped in muslin cloth. It was so simple to teach my children when they were young: nothing complicated or high-tech required in this family! 🙂
I would put an empty manger with no straw under the Christmas tree. My goal was to teach my children the Gospel and to build excitement about baby Jesus showing up in the manger on Christmas morn. I tried to take some attention off of just getting gifts. The greatest gift for their young lives would be Jesus.
A small basket of straw would be put beside the manger. If they were good during Christmas, each day they could put straw in the manger, preparing for Jesus’ arrival. I hid baby Jesus away. Now the lesson begins. We know that small children are not always good. And yes, none of us is good apart from what Christ has done on the cross to pay for our sins and bring us redemption. I wanted to show my children God’s mercy towards us. “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in mercy” (Ps.145:8). “For Your mercy is great above the heavens, and Your glory reaches unto the clouds” (Ps. 108:4).
Days when they should not have been allowed to put straw in the manger, I showed mercy to them by letting them fill up the manger. We would talk about the Gospel, the precious gift we have been given in Jesus Christ. “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem those that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 3:4-5).
This Christmas, I am smiling because my sons are grown now, but the Gospel is real in their lives, and they live and serve Jesus. That makes for a very merry Christmas for this Mom.