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,

45 Comments

  1. WOW! I really needed to read that today! What a GREAT reminder of the “work” we do as sheperds with our little ones and to take time to be STILL in the midst of the busyness of life.

    There are some amazing ideas that have been shared….

    We actually went caroling last night. It was fun to see peoples faces when we rang the doorbell and then starting singing God-honoring choruses. My kiddos LOVED it and really got into it. It was fun to “make a joyful noise” to the Lord.

    What an honor we have as Christians to share Jesus with the world. I pray that I will be bold in giving testament to the JOY I have in Christ!

    THANKS AGAIN for the WISE words that God has given you! What a gift to us all.

  2. We have a fun activity my 5 year old son likes called What God Wants For Christmas. Each day you read about someone in the Nativity and open a box to find a figurine of that person you can put in the Nativity scene. I think it was made by Family Life.

    My sweetest memory from Christmas this year happened last night. My son pretended to put on a Nativity. I was in charge of the actors (his two favorite stuffed dogs) and he told me what to do while he sang Silent Night and told about Jesus being born and the angel appearing to the shepherds. A sweet priceless memory.

  3. Each year our family bakes a birthday cake for Jesus. We sing Happy Birthday to him either Christmas Eve (with extended family) or on Christmas Day. Also, we have an advent wreath and candles at our home. We light a candle each Sunday and then on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Finally, we read the Christmas story outloud on Christmas Day to help remind the kids (4 and 5) that Christmas is about Jesus’ birthday and the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Messiah and not about Santa Claus and toys. This year we participated in Operation Shoe Box (one boy and one girl gift). The kids helped pick out the gifts. They were excited to put their gift up on the table with the other shoe boxes. Through these different activities, I hope that they will learn that Christmas is about God’s greatest gift, a savior.

  4. I love the idea of baking a cake for Jesus on Christmas Day and singing to him. And plan to read the story of CHRISTmas to the kids. And also will have my oldest (and us) answer the questions.

  5. Thank you for these ideas. I need to be bold in implementing them in my family rather than settleing into what is comfortable. I’d love to win the book!!
    Jeannie

  6. Karen,
    The shepherds are the theme this week. Yesterday, our pastor spoke on this passage and one of his comments has really stuck with me. He reminded us that the shepherds weren’t in a big city, they weren’t “downtown with the crowd”, they were out in the sticks. We need to share Christ with EVERYONE not just those in our convienient circle. Oh how I want to be a shepherd.

    I remember Christ at Christmas by trying to give back to those who are less fortunate. When I was married, my husband and I always budgeted extra money to leave for the waitress who was pregnant and working Christmas Eve or the local animal shleter, etc. This year, it’s just me and money is tight. However, I have been finding new ways to give. I give my time to the mom who needs a break, I give my talent by baking or creating. It reminds me that God gave me the ultimate gift.

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

  7. just slowing down, togetherness, celebrating family. We have really simplified this year. Our financial situation hasn’t changed, we have always been broke!!! Ü But God continues to provide for us. Many of our extended family has stopped gift giving. For our children’s Godparents and also parents/grandparents, we are honoring a family with money that is in need. So instead of gifts they are helping a family in need. Many people have what they need, this family the husband/father left after an affair/porn addiction. He is still lost and the kids and mother are left to pick up the peices. We will help this family this year!
    Thanks for the reflections!
    Shannon

  8. My best suggestion for staying closer to God during this wonderful season, and always, is to read the daily devotionals on Proverbs 31 Ministries. I get so much out of them and often forward particular ones to friends.
    May God bless you all!
    Deanna

  9. I just love your devotional that is running today! I especially enjoyed this:

    “So, in the midst of this busy week, will you stop? Put down the tinsel; discontinue the decorating; forgo the mending on the pageant costume and cease stirring the cookie batter. Turn down the yuletide carols and get completely alone and silent.”

    Awesome. I needed that today! And thank you for all of the wonderful ideas in your blog post …I have 2 little ones..and have been looking for ways to make sure Christ is the center of our Christmas :)

    That book sounds neat, too :)

    Love and Blessings,
    Kate :)

  10. I have a four year old and a one year old. During our devotion time for the past week or so, instead of doing our “devotional book” we have been “quizzing” our four year old about the Christmas story. He delights in getting the answers correct, and we learn by trying to come up with harder questions he doesn’t know yet. He rarely misses an answer twice! He has also surprised us by what he already knows, such as stating one night “Do you know we don’t really know how many wise men there were?” We were floored. We have a great time and enjoy hiding God’s truths in our heart about this time of year!

  11. We have always had a cake that the kids get to decorate and then we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus! There are 18 grandchildren on my husbands side of the family, so the cake is not always so pretty – but everyone has a good time. We have had the kids act out the story on Christmas. This year I am going to wrap up the baby Jesus from our Nativity so that one of my children will get Jesus. Merry Christmas!

  12. This year when we put up our Christmas lights….we put a Star at the very highest peak of our house with 5 strands of white lights shining down onto Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. You can see it from about a mile away. We are trying to witness to everyone we can. It warms my heart everytime I am out and I see it, I hope it does the same for others!!! I can’t wait to get a bigger star for next year.

  13. As homeschoolers, we take the month of December off from “regular school” and do Christmas school. This is our first year, and it has been a huge blessing for all of us.

  14. I enjoy listening to CHRISTmas music. Frosty is great, but the Christ centered music is my favorite. I also keep a bible in my van. When I am waiting to pick up someone I will read it then.

    If anyone has any ideas for teenagers who are (very unfortunately) recently being introduced to Christ and church I would LOVE to hear them. Thank you.

  15. I so appreciate all your ideas for keeping Christmas centered around our Saviors Birth. Last year we did the Find Baby Jesus game and my girls have been already asking about it for this year. We have our nativity up outdoors but baby Jesus has not been placed in His spot yet. Little things like this help my children to focus on Jesus not just the presents.

  16. Well, it seems that with younger kids these days there are a lot of different ways to incorporate Jesus and his story into our Christmas celebration. We have a ‘Little People” nativity that the kids play with all of the time. We have WONDERFUL story books to read. Also, our family is pretty musical and my kids love to listen. (we especially LOVE the Go Fish Guys “It’s About the Cross”) My 4 year old daughter has been keenly aware of things this season and my husband and I have been able to use these different avenues as visual/aural examples. (We may have to use the baby Jesus from the nativity set to play that find the baby Jesus game. Thanks Karen!)

  17. I really liked the idea about answering the question. We are going to be driving to my in-laws on Thursday, so I think I will have everyone turn off the i-pods and the radio and we will talk about our answers to those questions. I think that is a wonderful way to go back over the year and reflect on what God has done and is doing in our lives!

  18. Hey– this question was so good I posted it the writer’s view loop and provided a link to your blog as the source. I hope a lot of folks will answer it and be prompted to think through it. I think it’s going to be the subject of my journaling time tomorrow morning! Good stuff Karen and thanks for sharing it!

  19. When my children were little I had them write letters to Jesus and put them in a keepsake box. For a few years we read from the same book and then each signed our names and dated it.

  20. Wow….thank you for this. I have been caught up in the busyness for so many years now that I am fresh out of creative ideas and ways to slow down, focus, share with the kids and encourage new family traditions. I do have a basket of books that I started with my oldest (18), that tradition carries on with my 3 year old…..but I do need some more ideas……I love all of the ideas in your blog and the nativity scene for children. Children do love the baby Jesus!! Thank you for reminding me to pause and share the meaning behind this special time of year.

  21. We’ve been praying for those who don’t know Jesus, to “find” Him and begin a relationship with Him this season. I think we will take it a step further and let the Christmas lights around town be a reminder that Jesus is the light of the world and remind us to pray each time we see them for those who don’t know Jesus. There should be lots of prayers offered this week with all the lights we see on a daily basis!!

  22. I have heard of a few people who read the Christmas story a little at a time a few days before Christmas and place the different pieces of their nativity out finally ending up with putting Baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas morning.

  23. Thanks for your devotion today. It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness we women feel must get done before we can slow down or even come to a halt. I have been that way more this year.Thank you for reminding us to make time to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. When our boys were small we always read the scripture about Christ’s birth. I really like the idea of the basket of books for the children. I think I’ll start that with my youngest granddaughter. She already loves books, and not 2 yet.

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