Simple Sheperding

Merry Christmas to those of you joining us today by way of the Encouragement for Today devotion I have up on Crosswalk.com and Proverbs 31. If you haven’t read it yet, click here to do so.

And will you do this momma’s heart some good and hop back on here tomorrow and Thursday when my 18 year old daughter Mackenzie will be guest posting? She wrote two Christmas pieces on her Facebook site recently that made me bawl and I’ve asked her to let me reprint them here. I’d love for you to read them and leave her a comment if you’d be so kind. Thanks!

Four more days. Many advent calendars and Christmas countdown clocks are telling us that is exactly how many days we have left until the big event.

Our family had it own countdown calendar of sorts. Our kitchen chalkboard announced daily how many more days until Kenz came home from North Carolina for Christmas. Today it was supposed to read “2 more days”, but we pulled a little surprise on our boys.

She actually flew in last Thursday night late, spent the night with a friend and then showed up at Spencer’s rehearsal for Lansing’s Homeschool Performing Arts show Suessical the musical on Friday. He was floored! There she saw many dear friends and then, hopped in a car to later show up at Mitchell’s JV basketball game to surprise him too.

Such fun. Then, already this past weekend, we have had the Ehman Christmas and then two dear families over last night for a holiday get together. ..

Now we have, like many of you, four more days….

What can we do in these days we have left to focus on Jesus? And how can we help our kid’s catch the vision of Christmas by way of our attitudes, actions and activities? I’ll list a few ideas to get us started. You hop on and leave an idea (or a comment about an idea). I’ll be giving away a copy of our book Homespun Memories For The Heart to one person who does so. :-) homespunMemories

  • Keep a copy of a Bible nearby where you will be spending a lot of time this week– the kitchen where you’ll be baking; the bedroom where you’ll be secretly wrapping gifts; on your office desk. Leave it open to Luke chapter 2. In the midst of your busy day and bustle of duties, stop and read a few paragraphs of the story of Jesus’ birth. Later, read some more. Re-read it often these next few days letting the magnitude of the reality of this incredible story sink in. Once, you were sentenced to spend eternity without God. Now, through the entrance of Jesus in that simple manger bed, you have a way to heaven. You can spend eternity with the God who is with us (Emmanuel). Awesome! If you simply have no idea what I mean by that, click here to read more and find out.
  • Intentionally bring Christ into your conversations. Christmas is a natural time to center your conversations around Jesus. Whether it is with your family, a neighbor or the check out clerk at the store, look for open doors to, like the shepherds, tell others about Him.
  • Look for the Christ Child. If you have small (or even not so small) children, help them look for Jesus. Do they see Him at the mall? Nestled in a lighted manger when you are taking a Christmas light tour? Is He on a Christmas card? Teach them that just like the Wise Men of old, we have to search for the Christ Child. Which brings us to the next idea…
  • Hunt for baby Jesus. This is how we awakened our kids when they were small. Crank up a Christmas tune to signal it is time to begin. We often played the old Amy Grant song Love Has Come since it talks about waking up the little ones, the excitement of them seeing the gifts and the tree, but the real thrill being the fact that love has come for the world to know, just like the Wise Men knew such a long time ago. (Lyrics here.) Then, before the gifts can be opened and the stockings unstuffed everyone must, like those wise guys, “Hunt” for baby Jesus. He was a baby boy doll wrapped in our own version of swaddling clothes. Once he was found, we placed Him in the makeshift manger, daddy prayed and then we opened our gifts.
  • Ask the “Question”. This works well for families with a little bit older children. My friend Renee from Colorado began this tradition many years ago. Her sister-in-law, my other friend Debi, adopted it in her family, going so far as to make a banner sporting the “Question” that they display each year. Here is the concept in a nutshell.

*What are your gold, frankincense and myrrh this year? Gold symbolises royalty, so which of Christ’s noble characteristics is He growing in you? (patience, faith, honesty, kindness, self-control, etc..?)

*Frankincense was burned and arose during prayer. What prayers has God specifically answered for you in 2009?

*And myrrh was a burial spice accompanying death, so what do you need to die to in 2010 in order to become more like Jesus? (getting your own way/selfishness, envy, disrespect for your husband, spiritual laziness, anger, criticism, your wayward or sharp tongue, apathy, indifference?)

It isn’t too late to do this fabulous activity this year. Gather the family in the next day or two. Have the “Question” typed out (with the explanation). Everyone can carve out some alone time to answer it and then share the answers Christmas morning, before opening gifts, while sipping on hot cocoa. We are doing so this year, however, our younger ones only have to answer one of the three parts if that is all they can come up with.

Now, your turn….what are ways you focus on Christ in the midst of the other Christmas images and activities that are oh-so-fun and fine, but that sometimes steal the show? Leave us a comment today and you might win a copy of the book, which is chock-full of ideas for celebrating with your loved ones all through the year– on holidays, at holy days and on the ‘every’days of life too–the first day of school, the first lost tooth, the kick-off of summer, when your child gets their license or own library card, etc….

Four-Days-and-Counting Blessings,

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45 Comments

  1. When my son was little we hosted a birthday party for baby Jesus every year. We baked a cake, sang Happy Birthday and the children who came made a tree ornament every year that somehow depicted how they could give their hearts to Jesus. I always took their pictures and we’d place their photo in the ornament as well.

    On Christmas day we always set a place at the table for Jesus. We place a crown at His place setting. It gives us a visual reminder throughout the meal of His presence with us, as it’s His birthday we are celebrating.

    Looking forward to reading your daughters writing.
    Joy

  2. We have began having family devotion time. That used to be scattered and not regular enough for us, but during the school break, it’s beming a daily habit. We are using the book Leading Little Ones To God. It’s touching to us all: age 3 to 33!

  3. Thanks for the devotional and all the great ideas. I have to admit it seems every year we get caught up in the day to day (not even Christmas to-dos) and leave behind the real reason for the season. I love the ideas that were mentioned all will hopefully work for my family (kids ages 2-10 almost). I am feeling frustrated that I don’t feel more in the Spirit and thankful for the real reason of Christmas.

    THanks for your post and your blog!

  4. Your devotion was sooo my day and still I was able to post a list of how I was blessed through it.

    We do advent books-were the kids get to open a present each day until Christmas of Christmas books one being the Bible. I wrap them at the end of the year and store them with the Christmas decorations.

    We are currently filling baby Jesus’s manger with straw by the kind things we do for others. I jot down on the straw how it was earned( straw is strips of yellow paper.) On Christmas we will lay a doll on the comfy bed, we have made.

    We also reenact Las Posadas, going to each door in our home searching for a place for Joseph and Mary to rest. My husband hides behind each door answering the knocks. He suggest a broom closet for the couple and then on Christmas morning-they awake to find that Baby Jesus is now present.

    We have wrapped Jesus up under the tree as well as a gift and will probably do that again this year seeing that our oldest child asked Jesus into his heart this year.

    We bake cupcakes for His birthday to share.

    Donated toys.

    memorize scripture or poetry about His birth

    We occupy our 2 year old to look for Jesus in lawn decorations as we drive. I love to hear, ” THERE DEZUS!”

    We have followed the stars through the house, like the Wisemen, to Find Jesus and our gifts.

    We discuss who St. Nicholas really was. Focus on what we are giving vs. what we are receiving.

    Thanks for more suggestions!

  5. Since our grown-up kids were little tykes, we’ve always had a family Christmas play on Christmas Eve for our family and relatives who were visiting. When they were little they dressed as Joseph, Mary, a shepherd, and an angel. I love to go back and look at those pictures of the early days. During these grown-up years the kids are involved in choosing the songs and music, along with reading poems and Christmas stories. Dad still reads Luke 2, and every year we have grown to treasure their production each Christmas. I look forward when grandchildren are old enough to take part.

  6. Wow this is all so amazing to see how many of you brought your kids up teaching them about baby Jesus, the real meaning of Christmas!! My husband and I gave our lives to the Lord 5 yrs ago and unfortunately my 2 older boys were grown but I still have 1 at home and I can surely tell you what a difference it has been raising a child in church!! Also the good thing is that God gives us grace!! My mom passed away in 07 and my husbands dad passed away this June so this year we have not bought many gifts as we are focusing more on giving God the glory for the family we do have!! I can honestly say this is one of the 1st Christmases that I have not been depressed and stressed with everything being about gifts and money. I give him all the Glory and Praise!! I serve an awesome GOD!!!!

  7. As I read the devotion today, I knew that I needed to take the time to be quiet and alone with the LORD.

    I really liked the idea (from Karen’s blog) about hunting for the baby Jesus. I have two little boys and I think this is something that we could incorporate into our family.

    I am sure many other families do this but one thing that our family does on Christmas morning every year is to read from Luke 2 before we open presents and before the busyness of the day begins. The moment of Bible reading can help to get the day started on the right track and get our minds fixed on what the day is really all about.

  8. I find ways to reach out to my neighbors and act in a Christ-like way. (Always, but especially during the hustle and bustle of Christmas time!).

    -Amy V.

  9. Our family honors God by purposefully giving more than we get. We donate our time and money to organizations that perform service that is especially important to us as a family. The parents donate blood – blood is always needed, but especially at this time of year when donations are down and the need is up. With the financial downturn this past year, it has been a little more challenging, but we’ve done it. The children are only getting one gift ($25 limit) and the adults nothing, but we’ve kept our commitment to give more than we get.

  10. Since Christ saved me 8 years ago, I keep looking for more and more ways to make Him the focal point of Christmas…as He should be. I can be grateful despite our financial situation this Christmas because of the lack of money we are not caught up in all the shopping, decorating, etc. We have kept it simple and I love it!!!

  11. I love the questions. Defintely going to be pondering them! I also like the challenge to read Luke 2 several times over the next few days. Going to do that. Thanks!

  12. I have started a tradition with my 3 beautiful grandsons. We make Christmas cookies and decorate them each year. Now that the little one is bigger, we are going to start taking some to their great grandmother’s assisted living facility. We can share about the love of Christ with them as we share the cookies with them.

  13. Oh my – I decided to use the suggestion tonight at dinner of reading Luke 2:1-15..and I wanted my boys to memorize it. When I began reading it, when I got to verse 8, my twins pretty much recited it as I was reading it. They had learned it in preschool…I was so blessed!

    But besides that they have their own manager scene made of wood that they got for Christmas one year that they love to play with. We put out everything except Baby Jesus and they have to find him Christmas morning, or we have also hidden baby Jesus for the month of December so each morning before school they had to find him…they had so much hunting for him :-)

  14. We have limited the amount of gifts our boys will get to 3 – reminding them that Jesus received gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We will also be doing a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Day with a treasure hunt game – the boys will have to find things associated with Jesus…(the Bible, baby Jesus -from our nativity, etc.)

    We have also started the tradition of the Jesse Tree. There’s a special reading from the scriptures of how Jesus came from the branch of Jesse.

    I also really like the idea I read about “finding baby Jesus” and gifts don’t get opened until the true gift is found. What a great way to start off the morning.

    Thanks for the post and the Proverbs 31 devotion. It was great and exactly what this momma needed to hear!

  15. I realy enjoyed the Shepard story. My children are all growen up. I would like to find a way to expose them to God more every chance I get. I wish my walk with God was closer when my kids were younger. Know I have a grandson and what him to know Jesus as soon as posable. I am looking for a traditon to start. To show my family to keep God in the center of there life at all time’s not just at Christmas.

    Thank you for your devotionals they help me alot.

    Julie

  16. Also my husband always read the Christmas story from the bible every Christmas morning before we opened presents. That became a priceless tradition

    Francine

  17. Hello
    Our children are grown up now but we all enjoyed a tradition that we started when they were young.
    Early in December we would put out a fancy box and inside we would randomly when we felt prompted would write what we were thankful for and put it in the box. Then on Christmas day we would read all the thankful notes. Each year we added to the previous years and that made it so much fun to hear again the words that the children had expressed when they were young children , then youth .
    We still pull it out every once in a while and read through them.

    Francine

  18. My little ones love playing with their nativity and acting out the Christmas story together. It has really helped keep our focus on Christ!

  19. I encourage each of us to first ask the Lord for wisdom. If your heart is truly burdened for keeping Christ the focus of Christmas, tell your Heavenly Father. Ask Him to show you how He wants you to minister to others and to be a godly example to those around you. God has answered my prayer for that this year…not in the way I would have wanted, but He is certainly making Himself known. May your hearts be tender and your mouths be full of loving wisdom…Merry Christmas!

  20. I love some of these ideas! My twins are only 10 months old this Christmas but we still want to start some good traditions. We want to read the Christmas story each year on Christmas Eve for starters. Any other ideas for our age group!?

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