Wonder Boi Writes

25 Songs of Christmas: Dec 6 – Hallelujah (Christmas Version)

Jackson’s elf on the shelf arrived from the North Pole yesterday.  That topic is probably a bit of whiplash for those of you following my blogs thus far this holiday season. Violence, child welfare, poverty, privilege, and an elf on the shelf?

Maybe now is the time to point out we do the elf on the shelf differently at our house.

Ever since Jackson was born, we’ve had a hard time with the concept of Santa Claus. We love Saint Nick, and we wanted all the fun that comes along with that right jolly old elf, but we didn’t like the cultural class-based baggage that comes with him, too. We have serious problems with the naughty or nice business.  I know, I know. it’s a really convenient parenting tool to get kids to behave at the holidays. It’s tempting, and in my weakest moment I may have even whispered, “Santa’s watching,” to a group of unruly kindergarteners last year. But this is not good in the long run.

Teaching kids that the number/quality of gifts they get from Santa depends on how good they are sets them up to believe bad things about how the world works. What about poor kids who may only get small gifts or no gifts at all? Is that because they were bad? Of course not. It’s because their families are struggling to feed them and keep them in clothes. What about Jewish or Muslim kids whom Santa doesn’t visit? The whole naughty or nice thing makes it looks like those kids are inherently bad because of their faith. And what about the rich kid who gets covered in toys? He looks like he was the best, nicest, most wonderful person in the world, when really he may just be horribly spoiled.   The idea of presents being the reward for goodness sets up a system that reaffirms the rich and reinforces the idea that poor people are bad. Despite what some people want to believe, this is not the way of the world. It is a system of oppression, one I do not want my son to learn ever, but especially at Christmas.

More importantly, though, I worry that the elf on the shelf with teach my son the wrong message of Christ at Christmas. The elf as it stands in most marketing ploys is to put the emphasis on the toys, on the consumerism, and as mentioned above that more toys = better. I want to teach my son that there is one true gift at Christmas, and it is the love of Jesus Christ, and the love of Jesus Christ is in no way dependent on what some elf catches him doing. The love of Jesus is the anti-naughty-or-nice. The love of Jesus is a gift freely given to anyone and everyone, no matter how rich or poor, not because we are good, but because we need it, all of us, not matter how many other gifts we get on Christmas. The love of Christ is part of no hierarchy. It is the great equalizer, and that is the true message of Christmas.

But, still, that elf looks like fun. Moving it around, messing with your kid’s head, that’s a good time for the whole family, and I don’t want my family to miss out on the joy and magic of Christmas, so my wife and I decided that maybe instead of letting the elf teach the wrong lessons about Christmas, we can use it to help teach the right ones. And with that in mind we reworked the elf (and Santa) in Christ’s image. Our elf didn’t come to help Jackson be nice; he came so that Jackson can teach him about the love of Jesus. This is the letter our elf arrives with:

Dear Jackson,

Thank you for your letter. It was very nice of you to ask about Mrs. Claus and me. We’re doing well, but things are very busy at the North Pole right now. I wish I had more time, but with Christmas coming I really need kids like you to help me. Which reminds me, I’m happy you want to teach an elf the true meaning of Christmas again this year. It’s confusing for the elves because they work so hard on the toys that sometimes they start to think that’s what Christmas is all about. Toys are so much fun. I understand how they could get confused for a little bit, and I am glad there are kids like you out there willing to remind them that Christmas is really Jesus’s birthday.

The elves can also start to believe all that silly business about gifts being about whether they are naughty or nice. When they start to think that way, they believe the only reason we are nice is to get presents and assume only the very best people will get good things. I want them to know that the best gift of Christmas is the love of Jesus, and that gift is free to everyone! God loves us all the time, no matter what. He calls us to share His love because He has so much love to go around. We aren’tgood to get this gift. We are good because we have already gotten it! 

So this is your elf, Ory. Will you please teach him it’s okay to make mistakes as long as we handle them like people who are filled with the love of Christ? Teach him to celebrate with joy and happiness and even a little bit of magic. Most of all, please show him how to greet every person with the love of God, who first loved us.

I’ll be back to get Ory on Christmas Eve to see if he’s ready to come help me share the true joy of Christmas with the whole world. You’ll have to wait till then to see about the Ultimate Baseball Trainer you asked for.

Merry Christmas,

SantaDSCN5865

Each day in the early part of the season, the elf makes a mistake. Sometimes he wastes food, and we use that as a chance to talk about people who are hungry this year and how Jesus called us to feed his sheep (John 21:17). Then we donate food to the food pantry. One day the elf put Jackson’s underwear on the tree. We laugh and laugh, then we teach the elf about how Jesus said that if someone asks for our shirt, we need to give them our coat as well (Matt 5:40). And we pick up some clothes to donate to kids in need. Every day, no matter what the elf does, we remind him that no one is perfect, but Christ and that God loves us any way. We remind him that God loves us so much He sent Jesus, and that’s why we are celebrating. By the end of the month, the elf is rocking Christmas, and on the last night with us in our home, we always find him in the nativity set, attention fixed where it should be, on the Christ child.   That is how we know the elf is ready to go back to the North Pole and help Santa spread the true joy of giving to others the way God gives to us.

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December 6, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized

3 Comments »

  1. Beautifully done, Rachel. I wish more people took the time to think through meanings and lessons and share them with their children. It’s a gift that lives on throughout their lives, and a blessing to all those who come into their lives.
    Marianne

    Comment by mkmbywater | December 6, 2014 | Reply

  2. What a great way to spread the true story of Christmas. Once again you have blown me away with your writings.

    Comment by Judy Comella | December 6, 2014 | Reply

  3. Not only is this an awesome way to keep the funmagictruemessage all together, but it sounds like a lot of planning and work for you! Good luck!

    Comment by onamarae | December 7, 2014 | Reply


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