I’ve never been for or against the Elf on a shelf. The creative side of me loves the idea of finding new and crazy ways of displaying him around the house during the Christmas season. I imagine him sitting on the sofa with the remote in his hands watching the Elf movie. Or maybe he would hang from the light fixture over the dinning room table as we sit down for dinner. Then on Christmas morning, an elaborate display of tinkertoys would form a scaffold for him as he climbs the tree. Yes, I could really get into it. I always just assumed he was a prankster of sorts that hung around to build up Christmas cheer. So imagine my surprise when I learned earlier today that his purpose was to keep watch over the family to see who behaved well enough to earn presents at Christmas. In an article I read, a mother seemed horrified that she had traumatized her child with the elf. And when I think about it, I guess I can see where some find him a little creepy. Still, I’m not convinced that there is no place for him in a Christian home.
Having said that, I think there are a couple of things about the Elf that might be a really good idea to give up. I also think there are things about him we can embrace and utilize without the potentially traumatizing effects of his intended purpose.
First, I don’t think it is a good idea to have a supernatural being that watches over you so he can punish you when you fail. I think it trains a child to look at God that way. I also find that it’s basis is of creating good behavior for a reward instead of out of loving obedience to God. It is the difference between training a child to do right things and heart training/discipling a child. This undertone of behaving because you are watched can have far reaching consequences into the character and integrity of a growing child.
What about repentance and forgiveness? With the elf, your behavior is reported and that’s the end of the story. You are either good or bad. There is no room for becoming Christ-like. This too, in my opinion, reflects negatively on God.
Is the focus on Jesus or is it on behaving to get gifts? It is difficult enough to fight against the tide of all the consumerism and keep the true message of Christmas the priority. So what is the alternative?
Why do we have to use this toy exactly as intended? He could be nothing more than a doll that is used to spread Christmas joy. We don’t need to read the book. We don’t even need to use the Elf! Maybe you have a snowman or other wintery themed figure that you could use. Maybe he could be a prankster with fun lighthearted silliness as we often find suggestions for. Maybe he can hold messages of encouragement and affirmation. Maybe he can hold Scripture, memory verses, or act as a reminder to read the Word. Maybe he can hold a special project for the day. Whatever you decide, he should be something that strengthens your family and does not distort God or the real reason for the season.
Why do we have to use this toy exactly as intended? He could be nothing more than a doll that is used to spread Christmas joy.
We don’t need to read the book. We don’t even need to use the Elf!
As a final thought, some children (and adults) just find the Elf creepy. For example, it has taken me years to not hate clowns. There will still never be a clown in my home. If you were to bring anyone in my family a clown themed anything I would assume you hate me. With this in mind, let us respect that some people will not be comfortable with him no matter how he is utilized. Just look for a different way to fill your home with Christmas joy!
Big Major Side Note: Just as I was finishing up this post I found out about a great post at Give Peas A Chance. The Wandering Wise Men and the Christmas Angel are both great alternative ideas!