Today’s guest post is by Elyse Fitzpatrick, author of the new devotional, Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional, which is on sale for 35% off! Fitzpatrick has written more than 15 books and has been a women’s counselor since 1989.
In the last few years, the Elf on the Shelf has become a popular tradition in many Christian households. I don’t personally have a problem with Mr. Elf, although I assume he might have a problem with me. You see, if he was here observing me during the day, he would see me eat the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos I promised myself I wouldn’t eat again. And he would report to Santa that I didn’t spend enough time reading my Bible while spending too much time on social media. He would see the looks I give my kids when I am angry, or the eye roll that I skillfully perform when someone does or says something I don’t agree with. And worst of all, if Mr. Elf were able to see into my heart, he would break his own “no movement during the day” rule and run for his life.
I understand why parents use the Elf. It can be a fun game for the kids to try to find him in the morning, and of course, as a mom, I am all for having one more way to help with behavior management around the holidays. But I must also admit to being more than a little concerned with the message behind the Elf, which when you think about it, is actually the message of karma. In case you don’t know, karma is the idea that if you’re good, good things will come to you. We hear this philosophy in phrases like, “What goes around comes around” all the time.
What’s wrong with karma?
The first problem with the Elf and Santa’s naughty or nice list, or in other words, karma, is that it never gets at the motives of the heart. It might reward good outward behavior, but what if that behavior is motivated by a purely selfish desire for approval, fame, wealth, toys, or chocolate? Karma misses the depth of human sin and settles for rewarding good outward behavior.
But that’s not the biggest problem with karma. The worst problem is that it’s the complete opposite of Christianity. At the heart of Christianity is a message of grace: a message that you’ve been granted blessings you don’t deserve. Grace is what differentiates Christianity from every other religion—every false hope that you can earn blessings through good behavior. And when you come right down to it, all of us are actually hoping that karma isn’t the way the world works, that there is something completely out of the ordinary, and that God does bestow his unmerited favor on naughty children and their parents. The Elf on the Shelf isn’t good news. It isn’t the gospel . . . and we’ve got to be really careful that our children know the difference.
What does grace look like?
If there had been an Elf on the Shelf in Jesus’s house, his report back to Santa every night would have been, “Santa, Jesus did absolutely nothing wrong today.” But karma wasn’t working for Jesus, because we know that he didn’t receive the blessings he deserved for his obedience to his Father’s perfectly holy laws. Instead, he was tortured and murdered for living a life full of loving obedience. Of course, after the resurrection, he was rewarded with great blessings and given a “name above every other name,” but grace then shocks us by transferring his record of loving obedience to us—to undeserving rebels.
While Elf of the Shelf might be a fun pastime for your family, I would plead with you to make sure your children don’t confuse his message with the gospel. Elf on the Shelf Christianity is not good news. Someone actually is always watching us, and if we were to be judged by our thoughts, words, and deeds, we would be doomed. But the beauty of the gospel is that we have already been judged, but that judgment has fallen on our Brother’s head: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Beloved brothers and sisters, this is our message—this is our good news.
So play Elf on the Shelf with your family if you like, but if you do, please use it as an opportunity to share the good news that there’s something more than karma: we are all on the naughty list, but because of that little baby, we have been transferred to the nice list. No, better than that, we’ve been moved to the “righteous,” “forgiven,” “adopted,” and “loved” list. We’re there not because of our good behavior, but because God is that loving, that kind, and that generous . . . and that’s the good news that should make us shout, “Merry Christmas!”
Elyse Fitzpatrick’s new Christmas Advent devotional is the perfect resource for families wanting to focus on the real meaning of Christmas, while drawing closer together. Get Fitzpatrick’s new devotional, Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional for 35% off on Vyrso today!
Today’s guest post is by Elyse Fitzpatrick, author of the new devotional, Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional, which is on sale for 35% off! Fitzpatrick has written more than 15 books and has been a women’s counselor since 1989. In the last few years, the Elf on the Shelf has […]