Sunday, December 10, 2017

Inspire Children to Serve with Picture Books {A Works of Mercy Wise Men Tradition}

Happy second week of Advent. 


Three years ago, I shared an idea for marrying picture books, magi figurines, and service to create a new family tradition

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Since then, our "Works of Mercy Wisemen" tradition has continued.  Daily during Advent, my children find the Wise Men from our Tales of Glory Nativity Playset 
getting into stories, sometimes with other items nearby.  After the children discover a Wise Men vignette each day, we chat about the story and what Work of Mercy or virtue the Wise Men might be suggesting we work on that day.  

So far this year, our vignettes have been quite simple and our acts of service and kindness, too.  Still, the tradition has brought fruit and focus to living our Advent journey with eyes toward encountering Jesus.

Pair 8+ Books with Works of Mercy




On the first day of Advent our Wise Men were found among three books: Bartholomew's PassageThe Christmas Story, and If He Had not Come.   Minutes later, the Wise Men "whispered" in ears about how we could actively prepare our hearts for Our Lord through action.  



Among the ideas we came up with were:

  • Praying for the Living and the Dead: Inspired by If He Had not Come, we thought about how different the world is because Jesus did come and also because of the people He's put in our lives.  We decided we will spend extra time praying for the living and the dead this Advent and, as a part of that, continued our St. Andrew Novena with special intentions for specific people.


  • Preparing Ourselves to Instruct the Ignorant:  We cannot share the good news of Christ if we do not deepen our knowledge of and love for Jesus.  So, we decided to re-read The Christmas Story (which we know well) as a way of centering ourselves on the reason for the season and, then, reflected briefly on the beauty and meaning of Jesus' birth.


    We also went out to find a tree branch to act as our Jesse Tree and asked our Lord to speak to us through the stories and scripture that we read as we hang each of our Jesse Tree ornaments so that we can share Salvation History well with others when we are called to do so.  
    Further, as we gathered for our Advent Wreath time and began reading Bartholomew's Passage, we took time to reflect and pray.




  • Clothing the Naked:  Additionally, we decided to take bags of our out-sized and excess mittens, gloves, and winter wear to donate for those in need.



On the second day of Advent, our Works of Mercy Wise Men were found reading the St. Nicholas page of Saints Lives & Illuminations and getting into cough drops.



Since the children knew we were to attend an early St. Nicholas Party and Service event, they decided our Wise Men were telling us to
feed the hungry and clothe the naked.



Recalling St. Nicholas' generous spirit, we joined friend to stuff wool socks and warm gloves full of sundry daily supplies (toothbrushes toothpaste, tissues, cough drops, floss sticks, and more) to be given to homeless people in our area. The children enjoyed this small service project and I encourage others looking for a service activity to try it.






On the third day of Advent, the children found our Works of Mercy Wise Men among a bunch of laundered, but old towels, reading The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy.  After chatting, they decided we should help shelter the homeless (animals) by donating the towels to a local animal shelter.  Thus, we rearranged our morning plans to go do so. It didn't take very long, but, hopefully will bless some dogs waiting adoption.



On the fourth day of Advent, our Wise Men were getting into a bag of candy cane packages next to some bread and 
the St. Nicholas page of Saints Lives & Illuminations again (because I had yet to get any of the other St. Nicholas books we've read in the past out of the library again, such as: Saint Nicholas, A Gift from Saint NicholasThe Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas GivingThe Legend of Saint Nicholas, and The Legend of Saint Nicholas.


The children quickly decided to
feed the hungry, instruct the ignorant, and comfort the afflicted by making a small secret St. Nicholas Basket to drop on a neighbor's doorstep...



... and also by secretly "candy caning" people who are suffering from infirmity or limitations of advanced age as well as those who may or may not know much about Jesus.



On the fifth day of Advent, our Wise Men were stacked up to read the Saint Ambrose pages of Once Upon a Time Saints the the Loyola Kids Book of Saints (which I just saw is currently selling for 60% off hardcover!), focusing particularly on the words "something hard".


As we though about how St. Ambrose was known for doing hard things, even when surprising turns of life arose, we decided to admonish sinners in a way, by doing something "hard" for us - staying home all day and night and spending extra time focusing on responsibilities we might fail to focus on at times: lessons, extra chores, remaining patient with one another, spending extra time in prayer.



On the sixth day of Advent, our Wise Men were reading Mary, the Mother of Jesus for the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and we decided, again, to pray for the living and the dead,focusing on our usual morning, mealtime, and evening prayers, plus adding midday "emergency" prayer for a friend, and prayers for others whose intentions we brought to Holy Hour with Divine Mercy and Mass.  Further, as we thought about how Our Lady was conceived without stain of sin and how we are washed clean of sin with our Baptisms, but, then, sin again in our humanity, we gave thanks for the gift of mercy offered each of us and prayed for grace to pour down on everyone.




On the seventh day of Advent, our Wise Men were reading a board book called One Baby Jesus with a pageant script nearby.  The children agreed we should "instruct the ignorant", or, rather, prepare to share our Lord's birth story, by taking time to rehearse for our parish pageant.  We also continued to pray for the living and the dead by praying with our local Children's Rosary group.



Today, on the eighth day of Advent, our Wise Men sat with some gifts for our parish Giving Tree and the book The Christmas Coat.  Thus, the children knew it was time to
clothe the naked again by donating items for children in need.

As Advent continues over the next two weeks, my children and I look forward to our Wise Men encouraging us to revisit other favorite seasonal reads and to find new ones which will inspire further Works of Mercy.  We welcome your suggestions for inspiring picture books and seasonal saint stories.  Please share your favorites with me.

If you'd like to find other picture book-service ideas, please click through the image below to find some of our some past ideas.



May your Advent be filled with service and special moments as you prepare yourself to encounter Jesus - past, present, and future.

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