Preparing the Manger

Ideas for Children in Worship
Carolyn Lewis, M.Ed.,  CMI Administrator

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.
The stars in the night sky looked down where He lay,
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

Little Children’s Book for Schools and Families, c. 1892

The image of the manger is a powerful one for children.

mangerThey seem drawn to the place where Baby Jesus lies sleeping on the hay in the family manger scene, gazing in wonder at the figures of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the animals and the wisemen as they behold God’s most precious Gift. That Jesus could have been born in a stable, laid on straw and wrapped in thin little blankets against the winter’s cold is an amazing thing!

Families in our churches can help to prepare the manger for Jesus’s coming during these days of Advent waiting. Just as Mary and Joseph placed hay and blankets in the wooden feeder in anticipation of His birth, we can line a manger for Him with love and kindness in our homes. Share this idea in a children’s sermon, the church newsletter or a bulletin insert to give families the opportunity to prepare thoughtfully and intentionally for the coming of Christ. Encourage families to sing “Away in a Manger” and other simple carols.

  • Make a simple manger from an oatmeal box or other small container. Cover the box with brown paper, and allow the children to cut or tear strips of soft fabric for lining the manger. Put it in a special place where everyone can reach it.
  • At a family meal or other special time together, explain that you will be helping to make a warm and welcoming place for Baby Jesus by doing thoughtful deeds and speaking words of kindness to each other. When He grew up, Jesus told us to love one another, and these are ways we can show that we love Him, too. Helping each other with chores, picking up toys and clothes, shopping for warm gloves and a hat for a child in need, saying a word of encouragement, making cookies together for an elderly neighbor, listening to a friend who is sad: these actions can be done quietly and without competition. The youngest ones may need a little help with their ideas. Adults and teens can set the example and quietly acknowledge the actions and words of younger children.
  • After a deed is done, the one who did it may go quietly to the manger and add a soft strip of cloth to the manger. Slowly and quietly, the manger will be filled with welcoming softness and our homes with the love that He brings to all of His children.

As the days of Advent move toward the moment when our waiting is over, the love that fills our hearts and homes will make a place where He can come and dwell forever.

Adapted from Invitation: Bible Studies for Ages 5-6, Winter 1993, Cokesbury