I wrote the following post two years ago and it has been one of my most popular Christmas posts. So I thought I'd share it with you again in case you missed it the first time. Hosting a Shepherd's Dinner is a fun family activity that even the youngest (and oldest) family members can enjoy and participate in.
The night Jesus was born, the shepherds were "watching their flocks at night" (Luke 2:8) You and your family are going to become one of these shepherds for your shepherd's dinner.
Costumes: Bathrobes; headdresses made of dish towels or cloths. Fasten your headdress with a headband or strip of cloth tied around your forehead.
Explain to your kiddos that shepherds were people whose job was to take care of sheep. They didn't just put out food and water for them like we do for our dog. They stayed out in the field with their sheep all night, watching over them so wild animals didn't come and hurt them. Remind them this is what a good shepherd does and that Jesus called Himself The Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14-15).
If possible, have your shepherd's dinner outside around a campfire or outdoor fireplace. Then you can look at the stars and wonder which one might have guided the wise men. If you can't have your dinner outside, spread a blanket on the floor and have an indoor picnic. Stick a few stars (one bigger than the rest) on the ceiling for added effect. Imagine what it would have been like to be watching your sheep like usual and suddenly see the sky light up with angels.
Engage your child's imagination by asking them questions, such as:
How would you have felt when you saw the angels in the sky?
What do you think that looked like? or Finish this sentence: A sky full of angels would be as bright as _____.
What would you have done when you saw the angels and heard what they said?
How do you think the sheep reacted?
Do you think you would like being a shepherd? Why or why not?
What would be your favorite part of being a shepherd? Least favorite?
Make your shepherd's dinner a fun event. Let the kids help prepare the food. Keep your menu simple, like they would have had in Bible times.
Cheese and crackers
Bread and jam, honey, or hummus
Fresh or dried fruit
Nuts or seeds
Beef jerky or cooked meat
During your shepherd's dinner, read the Christmas story from either your Bible (Luke 2:1-20) or a children's picture book. A couple of my favorites are: "The Christmas Story" by Jane Werner Watson and "Room for Little One" by Martin Waddell. Talk about that miraculous night of Jesus' birth, but don't drag it out longer than the kids can listen. Keep it fun and allow for silliness. After all, you want your shepherd's dinner to be a tradition they look forward to year after year.
I pray you enjoy your shepherd's dinner. Fine-tune it as needed to work for your family. Most of all, remember the Savior, the greatest gift of the season.