What do you do in the weeks leading up to Christmas? You know, besides school parties, work parties, school concerts, church programs, family get-togethers, shopping, wrapping, decorating, cooking, cleaning, more wrapping, finding all the boots, and sweating.What do you do to quiet down as a family and recognize why we celebrate Christmas? If you do not have a quiet tradition for December, I recommend a Shepherd’s Dinner!
Shepherd’s Dinner Basics
Now before we get too far, just a heads up that I did not come up with the idea of a Shepherd’s Dinner. I got the idea from the book The Lifegiving Table by Sally Clarkson. She talks about their Shepherds’ Dinner, and even provides a menu and recipes in the book. We do things a little bit differently, as she suggests a more fancy, festive affair like a big party, and I am more low key, but she is my inspiration!
Basically, Shepherd’s Dinner is a meal meant to help you focus on the true meaning of Christmas. You can take it in whatever direction you want that fits your family! Picnic blanket on the floor, or regular table, you do you, as long as you have that time as a family focusing on Jesus.
I like to serve a menu where we are eating “like a shepherd,” with crusty bread, olive oil and herbs, and pomegranates for dessert. (That feels Mediterranean to me!) But your menu could be whatever you want! In The Lifegiving Table, Clarkson says they make potato soup for their Shepherd’s Dinner.
This year I am planning on turning all of the lights off and only using candles. My kids have never been really into dressing up, but if your kids like dressing up it could be fun to dress up like shepherds!
The point is to center on Christ. To do that, here are some fabulous picture books to remind the kids (and me) about the God who loved his people so much that he sent his son as a baby to save them!
Christmas Picture Books About Shepherds
Here are some of the best Christmas picture books about Jesus’ birth that will complement your Shepherd’s Dinner. They are not about the shepherds only, but they are wonderful stories to go along with the meal.
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God is With Us by Amy Parker
Ok, so, I admit that this new Christmas picture book is not the most accurate portrayal of the Nativity story…there is snow on the stable, and all that. But it is perfect for the littlest members of your family! This Christmas board book has sweet, lyrical text, and cute animal illustrations with lots of sheep. Even better, it has a simple message of why baby Jesus is so important – God with us!
Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep by Laura Sassi
This is another great option for little listeners. Although it is not a board book, it has rhyming prose, and is a counting book. Heads up that it isn’t TECHNICALLY a Christmas story, but it is a sweet story about the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to look for one little lost lamb. There is no text explaining how the shepherd is Jesus, so you’ll need to have a conversation to explain the parable to your kids. Highly recommend for ages birth through 4.
Silent Night illustrated by Lara Hawthorne
The text of this beautiful book is the classic Christmas carol, Silent Night. The stark images along with the well known text makes this one of my favorite picture books about shepherds. (FYI, the wise men do make an appearance at the manger.) Imagine being a shepherd, out in the silent night when angels start declaring the good news! Love this one.
A Savior is Born: Rocks Tell the Story of Christmas by Patti Rokus
This is a unique book that really captured my children’s attention. It is the entire Christmas story told (wait for it) WITH ROCKS. There is very little text, but each page has verses you could read from the Bible if you wanted this book to last a little bit longer. Let me tell you, even made out of rock fragments, sheep are darling!
Found by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Found is not technically a Christmas book…and by “not technically,” I mean, Found is not at all a Christmas book. It is the fully illustrated text of Psalm 23 from The Jesus Storybook Bible. It is beautiful, and comforting, and all about the best shepherd ever. It is an excellent reminder that baby Jesus was celebrated by shepherds, and our Good Shepherd cares for us!
The Shepherd Girl of Bethlehem by Carey Morning
This sweet picture book tells the story of a shepherd’s daughter who witnesses the birth of Christ. It is not super theologically deep, but is a sweet story. It is hard to find picture books about shepherds featuring a female character. With two daughters, it is nice to show them examples of girls worshiping the baby Jesus.