The lines have been drawn. Which side are you on? If you are a mother of young children, or if you know any young families, you may have heard of The Elf on the Shelf. Less than a week has passed this Christmas season, and I have heard more mention of the infamous Elf than Jesus and Santa Claus combined. Not bad for a newcomer in an ancient tradition.
It seems that some moms embrace the Elf with gusto. The Elves in these particular families play funny pranks and show off naughty deeds like spreading flour all over the counter or removing ornaments from the Christmas tree. I recently learned of a creative Elf who is encouraging his family to do good deeds and acts of love. The parents of ‘creative’ Elves often enjoy posting pictures of their Elf’s shenanigans on Facebook or Instagram.
Then, there are the Elf haters. These parents have decided that the Elf is annoying, creepy and unnecessary. The camp of the Elf haters is most definitely growing. These parents enjoy slamming the Elf on the Shelf on Facebook. But, I have to wonder, do these folks express their distaste for the Elf on social media because they carry a bit of guilt that their Elf is not quite as exciting and creative? Are they annoyed that they feel pressure to have their Elf be more ‘fun’?
You see, when it comes down to it, I think Santa knows exactly what he is doing. He sends the ‘fun’ Elves to families who thrive on creativity, pranks, and imagination. To these families, I say, let your (inner) Elf run wild. And he sends ‘laid-back’ Elves to families who don’t quite have the creative juices or emotional or physical capacity to pack one more detail in their days. That’s the kind we got. Our Elf, Bell, is a charming little guy. However, he is fairly simple. He shows up in a new spot each day, keeps an eye on the kids’ behavior, and reports back to Santa each night. Not many shenanigans. I don’t want him setting bad examples for my hooligans. I just hope he isn’t telling Santa how often I lose my cool!
When it comes down to it, I think we should make peace with the inner-Elf we have been given. If creative parents thrive on a ‘fun’ Elf, let’s not make them feel badly about their efforts. For us less creative or too exhausted parents with a ‘laid-back’ Elf, let’s celebrate the Elf that we have. No need to get your panties in a wad about other people’s Elves. Because you know what, comparison is the thief of joy.
In a season that boasts the phrase, “joy to the world,” let’s encourage each other to find our own joys. And let others have theirs. If your joy is in Jesus, celebrate the birth of our King. If your joy is in your family, take as much time as possible this Christmas season to just be together. If your joy is in the traditions of the season, blow up that front yard Santa and put those stockings by the chimney. I expect all of these sources of joy are appealing to most of us. That’s why the ‘hap-happiest season of all’ has been sung about my many artists as ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
The key here is to not compare oursELVES with our neighbors. Because we’ll never find our true joy there. The reason comparison steals our joy is that by comparing ourselves with others, we will ultimately be annoyed by them or green with envy. And who wants to be the grinch?! Even without realizing it, I fall into this pit of comparison and am oppressed by these emotions of being annoyed or envious daily. Whether or not you have an Elf on the Shelf in your house, let’s all find ways this holiday season to find our own joy and celebrate those of each other.
It does me good to focus on the actual ‘the reason for the season’. We should take heart in knowing that Jesus, our God who was born as a tiny baby to two nervous first-time parents, came so that we may have eternal joy. And it’s helpful to remember that for many people, it’s not the most wonderful time. This season can be painful for some. No matter the sorrows we face in this tough, hard, prejudiced, sin-filled world – He will come again. If we just put our hope in Him, our hearts will rejoice, and no one will be able to take our joy away. In the meantime, we are told that if we ask, according to the will of God, our joy will be full.
This Christmas, I’m all about ‘joy to the world’. But that seems like a lot of pressure, so I’m gonna start by focusing on our family. I’d like to teach my kids how the original Sinterklaas*, good ol’ Saint Nick, actually focused on giving, not getting. I think my little rugrats are ready for that. And, I’m asking God for a simple time of celebration. Bell, our Elf, is welcome to watch from whichever spot he has chosen to perch himself for the day. He just better not get in my way.
“There’ll be much mistltoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near
It’s the most wonderful time
It’s the most wonderful time
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
– written by George Wyle and Eddie Pola
*I’m a big fan of a book our Nana recently gave us. If you want a good explanation to share with the kids for the combination of the traditions of Santa and Jesus, check it out: Buck Denver asks…Why Do We Call It Christmas? The Real Story Behind The Holiday by Phil Vischer (the Veggie Tales dude)