Spiritual Sundays: Compassion Capers

“There must be more to Christmas. I think we’re really missing something…” the
character sings in the classic Veggietales movie “The Star of Christmas.”

Ever had the same thought? Several years ago, with four children and their ever-growing wish lists, we knew we had to do all we could to keep the focus on the true meaning of Christmas–the amazing birth of our Lord and Savior.

A few years previous, I had surprised myself by sewing an advent calendar. Comprised mostly of felt, there are twenty-four pockets, each decorated with either a number or a holiday symbol. The first year we used it, I filled each pocket with candy and trinkets for the children, allowing them to take turns each day to draw out a surprise. The children certainly enjoyed this, but I wondered if this craft project, created by a craft-impaired mom, might be put to better use.

I had heard of families using pieces of straw as a reminder to do things to bless others.
Each time a child did something selfless, he was allowed to place a piece of straw at the manger scene. By Christmas, if the children had been self-sacrificing, the Baby Jesus would be comfortably lying on a cushy bed of straw.

Why not apply this principle to my spiffy advent calendar? I thought of twenty-four acts of service my children were capable of doing. I wrote them on slips of paper and placed one into each pocket.

As the days before Christmas passed before us, the children were challenged to think of
others, not about what bounty they would reap come Christmas Day. I tailored many of the activities to our unique interests. Our good deeds included the following:

Bringing a bag of cat food to the animal shelter
Shoveling a neighbor’s walkway
Making a get-well card for a fellow church member
Hand-making a special gift for a sibling
Making cookies for the neighbors

These can be individualized to the needs and opportunities available to your particular family. If your sibling relationships are strained, they can focus mainly on building relationships and blessing one another. If you have a family ministry, such as visiting a nursing home, you can relate each task to that ministry.

You don’t have to come up with all of the service opportunities upfront. The slips of paper do not need to be all pocketed at the same time. You can add one each day, depending on the needs and schedule of your family, as well as the inspiration that comes to you throughout the month.

Our family came up with the name “Compassion Capers” for this tradition because caring for others is one of the most important life lessons we can teach our children. We used “capers” because the service is done anonymously, as much as possible, and certainly without expectation of recognition or reward. The children are doing good simply for the joy of bringing Christ’s love and compassion to others.

So how about your family? Do you want to change your focus to be more outward rather than inward this Christmas? You don’t have to sew an Advent calendar. You can create something workable out of paper. Get the kids involved in making the calendar and in listing the compassion capers. This could be your best Christmas yet!

QUESTION: What can you do with your family this year to have a more service-centered Christmas?

CHALLENGE: Create some type of Compassion Capers with your family.  Even if you don’t do all twenty-four days, plan something so that everyone in your family has a chance to do a Compassion Caper for someone else.

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