So I think we have effectively dealt with the secularism that is encroaching on and taking over this sacred holiday, only to find another trend spreading like wildfire and troubling us more and more each day. Recently this "Elf on the shelf" joker began popping up all over the place. Facebook is ablaze with strategies of how to incorporate this doll into the lives of children each day leading up to Christmas. He even has his own book and get this, he watches all the children's behavior and is apparently in cahoots with Santa, employed to rat out the bad children and report the good works of the obedient children – the result of which is to be only coal and no presents to the “sinners” and all the presents they can handle to reward the works of the “little angels.” This behavior management technique goes back and forth in a dramatic song and dance until it reaches the pinnacle of this whole production: when both good and bad children alike end up getting the coveted presents they wanted in the first place.
There are so many parts of this practice (like that of Santa Claus) we take issue with and they’re too numerous to count: suggesting this fictional character possesses omnipresent qualities like that of God, the support of works over faith, putting faith and dependence in an entity other than God, to what and who's standards of behavior the children are being held, rewarding sinful behavior and God-like qualities equally, no consequences for sinful behavior, suggesting that any kind of control is possessed by anyone other than God, and so on and so forth. It’s nothing but idol worship manufactured and dressed-up in a cute festive red and white package.
Now I can't begin to tell you how appalled and distraught we became upon analysis of this jumbled concoction of distorted doctrine and the blatant disregard for the holy nature and sanctity of the miraculous historical events we celebrate during this time of year. It also saddens me to think about how hard these seemingly well-meaning parents are working to create a positive influence in their children's lives only to ultimately prevaricate in order to display a muddled and convoluted portrait of the “goodness” of mankind. What a hoax!
Don't they see that putting these seemingly harmless false idols before their children and playing along with this lie will cause their children to one day question the validity of our Savior Christ Jesus? I can just picture it now. Sooner or later their children will begin to question the reality of Santa, the Easter bunny, tooth fairy, etc. One by one, the parents then have to confess to the lie they have perpetuated for each character.
The biggest problem arises when children begin to question parents about their belief in Jesus. Will the children actually believe their parents are being honest about this Deity that you cannot see when they've already been lied to numerous times about the others? How are children expected to have unwavering faith in God when their parents have already systematically built up and then destroyed their “faith” in all of these other icons. This compromises and discredits the Godly witness of the parent to their child, making them hypocrites whose words do not match their actions. More importantly it, in turn, compromises the witness of Christ to the world portraying Him as a hypocrite, spiritualizing Him, downplaying the significance of His miraculous birth and sacrificial death, and lumps Him in with the others as a “false” idol.
Why do adults feel the need to perpetuate this secular fallacy in order to spread the feeling of “Christmas cheer?” As if the life of Christ and the knowledge of His saving grace through faith isn't enough to evoke these feelings of joy and thanksgiving. They promote these worldly values as opposed to participating in activities that bring glory and honor to a perfect God; the kind of worship that cultivates and encourages a sense of awe and amazement as God's redemptive plan begins to unfold with the birth of the Messiah. But I digress.
Then I began thinking about Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” I began to wonder if and how we can reverse-engineer this blasphemous distraction and use its basic premise to refocus family worship back on Jesus. Was there a way we could use it to create a new kind of tradition, teaching our children how to glorify Him in a way that supports sound Biblical doctrine, honoring and giving thanks to Him for His redemptive work on the cross and His grace that abounds while also providing a reminder of His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence?
And then it hit me: Does the all powerful, sovereign God in heaven not know His beloved and see and hear everything we do and say? (Ps 139:13-16, Jer 12:3) Does He not call us to be set apart by living a life that honors Him (Gal 1:15-16, Gal 2:20, Ps 4:3, Rom 12:2). He has even given us the standards by which we should live (Ex 20:1-17) and by which we will be judged in His Word (Mat 12:36, John 5:28-29). He also offers the gifts of mercy, grace, forgiveness and everlasting life through His son Jesus to those who believe in Him (John 3:16; 3:36, Rom 6:23), and redemption by grace through faith (Eph 2:8). It occurred to me that even though this basic concept when wildly astray there just might be a way to refocus and re-purpose it so that all glory, honor, and praise are redirected to God.
So here is my idea: The Messiah in the Manger initiative. Instead of centering all activities on Santa or an elf just focus on Jesus – the Messiah in the manger (Luke 2:4-14)! Get back to the true meaning of Christmas and the reason we have cause to celebrate and rejoice! Put God FIRST during this holiday and all year long.
Let’s develop traditions that show children ways to honor and worship God in order to teach them about the nature and characteristics of Our creator's sovereignty (omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence), the gifts of forgiveness, mercy and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Look for ways to reinforce the standards God has set forth in His Word, and to live a lives that are set apart by a pure witness for Christ and of the Gospel through guarding the holy and sacred relevance of the impetus of God's redemptive plan.
Parents, make a commitment this Christmas season to keep your eyes fixed on God. Make sure your activities evoke the kind of worship that glorifies and honors God magnifying the purity of this sacred and holy celebration. Protect the wholesomeness and legacy of your witness of Christ for your children and guide/guard the developing witness of your child against the evil influences of the world, against anything that may detract from bringing God glory. Make a conscious choice to reject the worldly idols of secular celebrations and embrace the truth, and doctrines set forth by God in the Bible. If parents spent as much time fostering the acquisition of God's Word and application of Biblical truth as they do thinking up ways to position this “Elf on the shelf,” they would be weaving a truly rich and life-preserving heritage in deed.
The bottom line is: people inevitably will carry the traditions of their childhood memories into adulthood, and these are the customs and conventions they bestow upon their own children. Parents, consider the words of Paul in Romans 12:2 as you take time to consider the traditions you are supporting and the meaning behind them. I suspect as you contemplate the “reason for the season” by seeking out activities that truly glorify and worship God, you'll leave that “elf” ON the shelf and choose to magnify the Messiah in the manger!
Walking by faith,
Romans 12:2 (NASB) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Angela and her husband are good friends of mine and she originally shared her thoughts about the “Elf on the self” with me in an email. I too was concerned about the promotion of this new trend especially among Christians and considered writing a similar article – Angela just beat me to the punch. This article is her email to me and is shared with her permission.