I like starting new traditions.
Last year we started the Jesse Tree and we love it! Our church has even made a list of readings for Advent from The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name
and ornament suggestions for the Jesse Tree.
The year before that, we started eating birthday cake for breakfast on Christmas morning for Jesus!
Yesterday I introduced my kids to shepherds pouches. (This idea was found on several blogs through Noel Piper’s book Treasuring God in Our Traditions
In place of where their stockings normally hang, there are 3 “shepherds pouches” hanging from December 1st-December 24th. The actual pouches
aren’t particularly significant except that they represent simpleness and not drawing attention to themselves. (As in not serving other people to get praise.)
I started off talking about whose birthday was coming up.
What do you do on birthdays?
We give presents!
How do we give presents to Jesus who is invisible? How do we give to the King?
I bring out the Bible and read Matthew 25:40: And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
This is how we give to the King. We love and care for others. Sacrifice. Service. Chores without grumbling. Servant’s hearts. Loving attitudes.
“During the month of December, anytime daddy or I see you guys serving each other or others, doing chores with a happy heart, serving others at school (yes, James is writing an e-mail to Rilyn and Ella’s teachers asking them to e-mail us if they see our daughters serving), we will put money in your shepherds pouch.” (I went to the bank earlier this week and got out 30 one dollar bills and $20 in quarters.)
On December 24th, we will count up all the money in their shepherds pouches. We will then go to Compassion’s gift catalog and pick something to give to someone in need with all the money they made. They browsed the catalog last night and were so excited that they could give a goat to a village! :)
Cultivating a spirit of self-sacrifice is hard for us – harder still for children during this season and in this consumeristic culture, who are marketed to constantly. We hope the visual reminder of the shepherd’s pouch being in view, front and center, during these weeks helps us to maintain focus.
And so…imperfectly, we remind ourselves that the magnificent event we celebrate on December 25 began with Someone’s fierce and determined desire to love a faraway people.
*I painted the canvas in the picture as another visual reminder of why there are pouches instead of stockings hanging over the fireplace. I used burlap for the word “King” from the extra pouches that came with the ones I ordered. I decoupaged the letters to the canvas and sprinkled some glitter over the burlap to give it an extra emphasis.
**When the kids wake up on December 25th, the pouches will be replaced by their stockings full of fun little goodies! Time to celebrate!
***This was the outcome from shepherds pouches 2011: They made $18 in December in their shepherd’s pouches. My favorite part was their public school teachers e-mailing us throughout the month with actions they saw at school that showed a servant’s heart from my girls. Both teachers really got into it, and I loved that we could share this experience with them! Sadly, the girls didn’t have enough money to buy a goat this year, but they had enough to buy a chicken! Maybe next year!