2019 Advent Devotion 19

The Elf on the Shelf

I recently learned about this relatively new Christmas obsession. There is a book and an elf toy and the idea is that the elf is watching the children of the household from Thanksgiving to Christmas and reporting back to Santa each night about what goes on – is the child naughty or nice? This surveillance is supposed to elicit good behavior which will then be rewarded with more toys on Christmas.

I just recently heard about the elf on the shelf for the first time. I have asked parents I know if they are doing it with their kids. No one has said yes. Maybe the elf hasn’t gotten all the way to Florida?

But Jesus has. Christmas is about God’s gift to the human family in Jesus. It is about God’s love for everyone. For all creation. Jesus is a gift for all of humanity and history. God isn’t short on love so it doesn’t have to be meted out or apportioned. And good behavior doesn’t get anyone a bigger helping. Everyone is already loved. Period. Bad behavior might actually be associated being given more love from God because more love might be needed, and we are given what we need. No surveilling elf is necessary.

The metaphorical image of God watching over us all of the time is not to be about judgment and reward or punishment. This image is to convey God’s constant care. God knowing our need. God looking out for us not checking up on us. It is about being constantly engulfed in Divine Love.

No, I don’t think there is ever going to be an elf on the shelf at our house.

In this holy season, may we know that we are precious and loved just as we are. Our imperfections make us human. May we grow in our capacity to love others and ourselves just as we are. That God’s way. We see it in Jesus. Amen.

Author: Rev. Wells

Pastor of Lakewood United Church of Christ since 1991. Graduate of Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary of New York.

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