For this year’s Christmas, I welcomed a new family tradition in our home : The Elf on the Shelf. I’m sure most of you reading are probably familiar with the very popular Christmas game and storybook, but in case you don’t, The Elf on the Shelf is based on a family tradition started by Carol Aebersold, for her twin daughters, Chanda Bell and Christa Pitts. Towards the end of November and into the start of Christmas season, the elf appears to serve as Santa’s eyes and ears, and every night, it travels back to report to the jolly old man, the names of children who’ve been naughty or nice. While children lay asleep, the elf uses its “magic” to move throughout the house, finding new hiding spots, activities, and adventures . The children are then charged to find the elf when they arise, following one basic rule: you must not lay a finger on santa’s little helper or it will lose its elf magic.
If I had to review the game, I would say The Elf on the Shelf is a super creative and fun way to foster good behavior in children. The idea that an overseer of Santa Clause has come to visit their individual homes to play, observe, and report back, entices children to stay on their best behaviors. Now I know there are some deeply religious, highly intellectual, and over-analytical folk who will interpret this exchange as manipulation, idol worship, pagan practice, or all-the-above. To that, I would say, utter a prayer over their narrow field of vision, for they are doomed to take in life experiences at face-value; never giving themselves the permission or release to see, feel, and sense things with supernatural ability. What I saw and experienced in our home using our newly registered elf, Ella, is the demonstration of great faith. Child-like faith! “Truly I tell you unless change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3, ESV).
My nephews and nieces begged me into submission to get our Ella. They started talking about it at the beginning of the year and would not let up. I finally gave in to settle their disappointment, and while I thought it was for them, it turned out to be an amazing Christmas gift for our entire family.
The first night Ella came home, she made herself comfortable as our tree topper, charismatically leaving a note and letting us know that she made the fairest one. No objections! It was super easy to get started that night because the children were so exhilarated, they forced themselves to sleep before 8 P.M. After that....Ella became a full time job with zero benefits and no pay. I ain’t even ganna hold ya’ll. The children started going to sleep later and later, and I was left responsible to wake up anywhere from 2 A.M.-6:00 A.M. to move her around to keep their excitement high. I was just about through with Ella one night when I had fallen into a deep sleep at 2:00 A.M. and suddenly remembered around 5:50 A.M. that I forgot to move her. I laid there sleepy and indolent, going back and forth in my own mind about how much damage the disappointment of not showing up would produce on their expectant little hearts. And that’s when it hit me...
These children were totally operating with a spirit of expectancy and unwavering faith. At the end of each day, they went to sleep happily and in perfect peace because; wholeheartedly, they believed that when they woke up, Ella would be waiting for them to discover her new location. They did not lend their ears to the solos and soliloquies of worry, anxiety, stress, doubt, confusion, intelligence, or analytics, they simply believed; and that kind of pressing faith caused me as the orchestrator to perform. It is precisely the same way God is actively working behind the scenes of our lives to bring our expectations to reality. When we let go of our own understanding and the knowledge of who we think he is and how he ought to move, we free ourselves to experience his goodness and provision in its purest form: in a child-like state. He is faithful to move on our behalves while we’re sound asleep and when he is not perceived, if we will create a platform for him to perform. Faith is the necessary tool. Stay in perfect peace knowing that God has expertly calculated the damages that would ensue if he took a leave of absence and because he is the good good father, he doesn't intend to just show up. He plans on showing out.
That is the magic of Faith, and I learned it from an elf named Ella.
My hope for you is that you will lend yourself to this simplicity of believing.