Advent Day 4: Locals flock to Aberdeen kirk's Christmas Sheep Trail

St Columba's Church of Scotland in Aberdeenshire is celebrating Advent by hosting a baa-rilliant sheep trail, where parishioners are invited to look for the shepherds' lost crocheted sheep spread out across the community, keep them and hang them on their Christmas trees.

Child dressed as a shepherd looking for the lost sheep
Each school child will receive an invitation to find the sheep, which will include a comic strip version of the nativity story.

Up until Friday 20 December, lots of small hand-knitted sheep will appear within local shops and businesses, sharing the story of the birth of Jesus across Bridge of Don and Danestone, and inviting everyone to their celebration event on 22 December.

The shepherds' lost sheep

Two people dressed as shepherds look inside a library to see if they can find the lost sheep
No sign of the sheep in the local library...
Woman standing in a playground looking around for lost sheep
No sign of the sheep in the playground either...
Two people dressed as shepherds looking off a bridge
And no sign of the sheep under the bridge...
Two sad shepherds struggling to find their lost sheep
The search takes its toll on the two bereft shepherds

Originally inspired by the Messy Church nativity ideas, Sue Thomson, the Children's Ministry Leader at St Columba's Church, said:

"We're excited about this fantastic opportunity to share the story of the birth of Jesus with our community this Christmas, and we're delighted to encourage everyone to support local businesses during Advent.

"We know that when the shepherds heard about the birth of Jesus they ran to Bethlehem to see him.

"If they left their sheep behind those sheep could have wandered anywhere.

"We're encouraging the community to find the sheep and discover their names. We hope that as they do this, not only will they be supporting local businesses but they will be reminded of the nativity story and consider what Christmas really means.

"Each school child will receive an invitation to find the sheep which will include a comic strip version of the nativity story.

"Our Christmas Sheep Trail will culminate in a celebration, ‘The Sheep's Story', where the sheep will be reunited with our shepherds and everyone will be invited to take part in a pop-up nativity play."

Hear about Jesus and be invited to follow Him

An array of crocheted sheep
Small crocheted sheep have been made and named by local schoolchildren

Twelve local businesses across both St Columba's Church and the neighbouring Oldmachar Church parishes have offered to take in the lost sheep, including supermarkets, butchers, newsagents, homeware shops, pharmacies, ice cream shops and fish and chip shops.

During the process of knitting the sheep and spreading the message throughout December, the congregation has taken to lots of different roles to make it a reality.

"It's a team effort - everyone is getting involved," Sue said.

"A whole variety of people from our church family are taking on different tasks.

"We have craft planners, graphic designers, refreshment teams, folk collecting and delivering the sheep, others crocheting sheep, a pop-up nativity team, musicians and lots more!

"Everyone is committed to praying and to inviting our community to take part because we all long for our friends and community to hear about Jesus and be invited to follow Him."

The sheep have also been made and named by local schools and children's groups including: Oldmachar Academy, Forehill Primary School, Danestone Primary School, Middleton Park School nursery, Glashieburn Primary School, Greenbrae Primary School, Braehead Primary School, Scotstown Primary School, 4th Parkway Brownies, Little BODs Play Group, St Columba's Under Five group, and Oldmachar Little Jammers Group.

Come along to celebrate The Sheep's Story

A graphic saying The Christmas Sheep Trail
A graphic for the Christmas Sheep Trail designed by one of the young adults in St Columba's Church

At the end of the Christmas Sheep Trail, the celebration event, ‘The Sheep's Story', will take place on Sunday 22 December at 2:30pm in St Columba's Church in Bridge of Don, Aberdeen.

During the event, attendees will hear what happened to the shepherds and the sheep and celebrate Christmas together. There will also be an opportunity to take part in the nativity play.

Everyone is welcome – both children and adults – to come dressed up as an angel, a shepherd or a wise man.

Follow the Christmas Sheep Trail on Twitter: #TheChristmasSheep and on Facebook.

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We invite you to sign up for a daily email or check our online Advent calendar for some daily inspiration.

Throughout the season, we'll bring you stories that highlight how church members around the country are celebrating the birth of Jesus and sharing their faith, hope and love with everyone in their communities.

Follow along with this year's Joy To The World Advent calendar.