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Sunday, December 25, 2016

12242016 Christmas Eve Late - "His Bed is Made - The Straw of the Manger"

December 24, 2016
His Bed is Made – The Straw of the Manger
Tonight we gather to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth.  We gather around a simple manger to peer in on a small innocent child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a makeshift bed because there is no room in the inn.  Tonight, Jesus Christ, Savior of the World is surrounded in a lowly manger by simple straw.
Some use straw as bedding, others use it to feed animals and still others only encounter it in the wind as they drive down the interstate and see a blade pass quickly by or when it is pulled out of the grill of their car or truck.  But the straw that cradles the Christ child isn’t ordinary straw.  It’s meaning can be found in the annals of Creation, the bins of combines, hay rakes and even some kids hair or clothes that have played on the round bails or from the hay lofts in many a barn.  But tonight the hay that cradles the Savior of the World is the only cushion Jesus knows in a lowly manger in a small inn on a back alley in the City of David, Bethlehem.
For tonight the question should be asked, how have we who gather here prepared our hearts as we come on bended knee to the manger?  What do we bring to the manger as our gift and simply is it enough?
Once a family had come on hard luck, the sole bread winner had been let go right before Thanksgiving.  The parents of three children were uncertain what the future held, but decided that for one Christmas, their family would break from their tradition of giving each other lavish Christmas gifts due to the present circumstances.  While sitting around the table deciding what to do, Ann the mother received an inspiration.  Why not this Christmas give each other the gift of love and service that would be represented by small bits of straw that would be laid in the family crèche that they used every year.
This year, their Baby Jesus would not be placed in the manger until Christmas Eve so for the entire season of Advent the family would anonymously perform acts of love and service to one another.  By lot every Sunday the family would pick a name for whom the acts of love and service would be rendered.  And with every deed a small blade of straw would be placed in the manger.
During these few short weeks the house was full of kindness and love like they had never experienced before.  The love shared and shown was clear, because there were fewer spats’ and squabbles and less shouting matches.  Weekly the increase in straw would be noticeable only to the most discerning eye.  And with one day left before Christmas Eve the family gathered to pick names for the last time.  John the oldest was last and in an instant, his face became a rush of emotions.  You see John unbeknownst to everyone had picked his younger sister Julie’s name each and every week.  Like most siblings John and Julie had a strained relationship.  But this was the last straw, John couldn’t take it or do it anymore.  He shot from the table with the words, “I can’t”.
John’s mother Ann let him alone for a few minutes and finally found out the truth of the last four weeks.  In desperation to keep her family together for this last Christmas before John joined the military, Ann suggested she and John switch names, with the understanding this would not be cheating.  John surrendered and finally agreed.
That night as Ann went to Julie’s room to anonymously turn down Julie’s bed for the night.  In utter shock she found that Julie’s bed was already prepared for her tonight.  Turning to leave Ann thought, John did have one final straw to place in the manger to make Jesus bed comfortable and complete.  
Tonight, our culture would ask, what final straw do we need to place in the manger?  But tonight, we need to understand that the final straw isn’t placed in the manger by us, but it is found in the sacrificial gift of the Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger named Jesus Christ. 

For the straw that Jesus places and finds the most comfortable in the manger is the gift He gives us with His entrance into the world to give us the gift of eternal life.  May the straw of the manger we find this night remind us of God’s gift of love in His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ Who comes to seek and save all of mankind, but especially each and every one of us who understand the last straw is found in Jesus Christ gift of love for us of eternal life as He is placed in the manger on the bed of straw.  AMEN.

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