The Elf on the Shelf is stressing me out. For those of you who haven't noticed this little fellow in the stores, here is his happy little story:
“The Elf on the Shelf® is a special scout elf sent from the North Pole to help Santa Claus manage his naughty and nice lists. When a family adopts an elf and gives it a name, the elf receives its Christmas magic and can fly to the North Pole each night to tell Santa Claus about all of the day's adventures. Each morning, the elf returns to its family and perches in a different place to watch the fun. Children love to wake up and race around the house looking for their elf each morning.”
While it is true that “children love to wake up and race around the house looking for their elf each morning,” the children are not so happy and excited when the elf has failed to move. It's too much pressure, my friend. I can't take the look of utter disappointment on their faces. And all these mothers from school are upping the ante by having their elf do things like fish in the sink, wrap the tree (seriously? I could barely get mine decorated), build towers out of forks, and decorate little baggies of red and green m&ms with the label “elf poo.”
Our seven-year-old, Bobby is still a believer in all things magical. Although our elf is rather inconsistent in terms of “perching in a different place to watch the fun”, Bobby has nevertheless cried every night out of fear that the elf will end up in his room, staring at him when he sleeps. None of us like to be watched when we aren't putting our best foot forward.
In the rush to relocate the elf, deck the halls, plow through crowded shops, wrap, bake, etc., I sometimes forget that Jesus is “watching the fun” as I prepare for His birthday.
Is it fun?
Or has the sparkle of Christmas grown dim because of the quantity of stuff, the steady activities, and the pressure to keep up with the latest electronic or name brand gifts?
Do you ever get to the end of the Christmas season, and find that your strongest emotion is relief that you got through it?
Advent is supposed to be about preparing for the coming of Christ, but too often, all we're really preparing for is more stuff to shove in drawers and closets, and hefty credit card bills in January.
I was walking to my car the other day with my arms full of heavy bags. (I had a lot of blessed people to bless with more things this Christmas season.) Feeling a little sorry for myself that my car was parked at the far end of the lot, I started thinking about God's perspective on it all. I was thinking about the fact that He doesn't just see me in the parking lot. His view is higher, and includes a young African girl on the other side of the world. We're both walking, but she's up when it's still dark, afraid as she makes her daily trek to a well to get fresh water. And it occurs to me that maybe my perspective has been a little faulty. And then I do the same self-talk that I've been doing for years, “So be grateful for what you have. It's not all about the finding the perfect gifts. Keep Christ in Christmas.”
Is that as far as God wants me to go?
Did He bring the disparity between my lifestyle and that of so many others to my mind simply to call me to a place of gratitude? Or would He actually like me to do something about it?
My mind travels to His words in Micah 6:8, “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
We are to be the “pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing,” 2 Corinthians 2:15. It's more important for me to be the scent of Christ to someone in need than for my house to smell like pine, gingerbread and peppermint. This requires that I go beyond being grateful for what I have, to actually doing something. God didn't say that He required for us to think about the importance of justice. He requires that we do justice. He didn't say that we should love kindness in theory. Our love of kindness needs to be seen in our actions. And God invites us to walk humbly with Him during the Advent season and each day afterwards. He didn't say, “Run around frantically while checking things off your list, while ignoring me.”
I can't solve world hunger. I can't build a well in every village that needs clean water. I can't hold every orphaned child that is longing for a mother's arms. But if all God's children decide to celebrate Jesus' birthday by doing justice and showing kindness in action, we would see change. That scent of Christ would fill the air and people would be drawn to Him. Now that would be a birthday gift fit for a King.
Can we spend less on gifts for loved ones who already have so much, and give to someone truly in need?
Can we forgo a luxury for ourselves in order to be more generous?
Can we practice kindness in unlikely places, like the mall parking lot and the long line in the store?
Can we walk humbly with God by prioritizing time with Him over creating the “perfect Christmas?”
The next time I relocate our little Elf on the Shelf, I'm going to remind myself that Jesus watches the fun of Christmas, and nothing delights Him more than seeing love in action.
May we be the fragrance of Christ as we prepare for His coming.
Blessings to you this Advent season-