Away in a manger

Here’s the song reference.

Today marks the beginning of the new liturgical year for us; it is the first Sunday of Advent, the season in which we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Every year on the first of December, we start on what may be my favorite project of the year, to wit:  constructing a “manger” to receive the Christ Child.  I’m also doing this project with my seventh grade Faith Formation students.

Our goal is to fill the cardboard manger with construction paper straws, upon each of which is written a kind word or deed we’ve seen, or a song, story or picture we’ve encountered that brings Jesus to mind.  The only rule is that no person may write down his or her OWN actions or words, which helps foster the virtue of humility and opens our eyes to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the people around us.  On Christmas Eve, we make a figure of the Christ Child from construction paper; on Christmas morning, before any gifts are opened, we put the wee babe in his bed, softened with the Advent season’s worth of loving words, thoughts, and deeds, and sing “Joy to the World.”

Here’s how we make our manger:

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We begin with an empty box, of which we generally have several on hand.  This year, blueberry waffles got the honor.

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Next, we split the box seam and lay the cardboard flat.

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Then we fold over the flaps so that the outside of the box will become the inside of the manger.  We don’t want the manger to be an ad for Eggo waffles, after all.

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Next, cut away most of one big side of the box, which will make the opening for the straws and the Christ Child figure.

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Tape the box back together, inside out.

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Take some brown construction paper and cut it to cover the sides of the box.

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Glue the construction paper to the sides of the box.  Bugaboo chose to do the inside, too, and quickly discovered that part of the reason we turn the box inside out is that glue does not adhere well to the printed side of the cardboard.  That’s why we don’t just use a tissue box.

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Take some pink and purple construction paper.  Pink and purple are the colors of Advent.

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Cut the construction paper into thin strips.

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I asked Bugaboo to tell me what kind words or deeds she’d witnessed to that point far yesterday, and what songs or stories she’d heard that reminded her of Jesus.  We wrote them down, using the purple strips for people’s words and actions that weren’t on recordings or in books, and the pink strips for “stuff.”

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Hopefully, this will be a very full manger on Christmas morning.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, we are joyfully preparing to celebrate Your birth on this earth, Your humble arrival as a helpless infant born to poor parents.  Thank You for miracles and hope, and for taking on the flesh of Your creations to dwell among us. Please help us teach Your little blessings that no gaily wrapped package will ever be more pleasing to You than humble hearts pouring forth kindness and mercy upon Your children, and that the most profound gifts are not available in stores.


4 thoughts on “Away in a manger

  1. Love this! I especially LOVE that you can’t put something that you did as a good deed. I think you are right about the humility, but also that it teaches children (and ourselves) to quit thinking of everything in terms of ourselves! I think it will make us more aware of all the kindness that others bring to our lives and make us more grateful! I think I need this as much as my kids!

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