One of the main themes of Advent is on giving rather than receiving. We give because God first freely gave to us. He held nothing back! He even gave us his most precious gift - his only Son. One of my favorite ways to emphasize the act of giving is through the Christmas Crib tradition. The Christmas Crib has become one of our family's most meaningful Advent traditions. It is a beautiful and simple activity that emphasizes thinking of others and doing good deeds.
To make the Christmas Crib, before the first Sunday of Advent, gather together a small basket or the manger from your nativity set, a small cup or dish, raffia or straw cut into 2-inch pieces, and a baby Jesus figurine. You will also need a bowl filled with the names of the family members on slips of paper.
Then, on the first Sunday of Advent, right after evening devotions, set the small basket or manger out on your kitchen or dining room table. Next to the manger, place the small cup or dish. Fill the cup or dish with the pieces of straw and place the baby Jesus figurine next to it all. The bowl with the slips of paper is passed around and everyone takes a slip of paper with a name on it. The person whose name one has drawn is now in one’s special care throughout Advent. From this day until Christmas, one has to do as many little favors for him or her as one can. One has to provide at least one surprise every single day - but without ever being found out.
Explain to your family that Advent is about preparing our hearts for the coming of our Savior, Jesus, and that during Advent we try to do as many good deeds for others as we can. Tell them that the person whose name they have drawn and who is under their care becomes for them the little helpless Christ Child in the manger. Explain to them that the straw in the cup is for baby Jesus’ manger. From now on, whenever they do a good deed for that family member or for someone else, they should get a piece of straw from the cup and place it in the manger. Explain to your children that the goal is to get the manger as full as possible before Christmas Eve so that baby Jesus has a super soft bed.
My family takes this tradition very seriously! I can’t tell you how touching (and surprising!) it is to see my children doing as many good deeds as they can. They love to know that baby Jesus will be surrounded by their love and good deeds made visible with the straw. It is such a sweet tradition that creates a spirit of selfless love and generosity.