“Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you.” – (1983) – “Every Breath You Take” – Recorded by: The Police (Sting) Composer: Gordon Sumner
Creepy, isn’t it? I always thought so. I felt that way about the lyrics of “Private Eyes” (They’re watching you…) by Hall & Oats. Who would’ve ever thought there would be something so spooky connected with Christmas?
December for me was the anticipation of my mom breaking out my old Christmas pal, Elfie. He was an elf doll dressed in a red velvet body suit with a Santa hat on top of a soft plastic head, along with a face garnished with rosy cheeks. In fact, I believe there was a little jingle bell on the point of his hat. He was skinny and maybe 8″ tall. The mittens on his hands were sown together, creating a loop with his arms for slipping over a doorknob, or a thin bedpost. For this little boy, he not only was a celebratory pal, but he was also the visual symbol that Santa was soon to arrive. He spent many Decembers with me until one Christmas Eve my dog, Tickey, found Elfie’s plastic head to be a chew toy not to be resisted. I cried, but forgave Tickey…eventually.
Many years ago, when producing radio theater plays for a radio network, I had an idea which came to me like a sled on an icy roof. While producing my second Christmas radio theater production, I decorated the recording studio in all things Christmas. When coming into the recording session from a 100 degree July day in Texas, you needed something to help transport the theater of the mind to December. As I recall, I even had the air conditioner set to a frosty level. Some of us even had to wear jackets or sweaters in the session. In honor of my old buddy, Elfie, it seemed appropriate to have a few of his descendants brighten the studio. Some actors found it intimidating while delivering lines from my script.
Of course, all of the above was way before the Christmas craze we now know, and affectionately call, “Elf On The Shelf”. My granddaughter, Skylar has one. If you don’t have children, or grandchildren going headlong into the American Christmas traditions, you may not know who Elf On The Shelf is, or what he is rumored to do. Well, let me enlighten you before December 25th settles upon us. This elf doll sits on the shelf, the bed, the table, the mantle, ect with eyes wide opened. At Skylar’s house he surprisingly appears in the most unexpected places every day. He’s not gazing in amazement at the traditional holiday decor, or the Christmas gifts under the tree, or even the wintry changes in weather. Nope, not at all. Just like the lyrics from The Police, his one and only job is to watch…okay, I’ll use the word “spy”, on the children of the house as he reports back to Santa for his big global flight. The little snitch is all about deduction of potential gifts on Christmas morning. OUCH! I guess Santa is too old to be seeing when you’re sleeping, and knowing when you’re awake. Age has gotten in Kringle’s way when it comes to knowing if you’ve been bad or good. Oh, for goodness sake. Now it seems Claus has a built-in security camera in the form of a sneaky elf, who sits on a shelf, keeping a sharp eye on the do’s and don’ts. Now if that isn’t creepy, I don’t know what is. At least the fat old man in the red suit wasn’t peeking through the closet door of my bedroom each night of the year. I guess that’s of nightmare status, like movies called, “Santa’s Claws” or “Santa’s Slay” Yikes! Okay, I’ve gone amok. I apologize.
Back to sanity now. I will say Skylar isn’t bothered by her Elf On The Shelf at all. She’s had about 3-4 years of having his judging eyes on her for a few Decembers. Frankly, I’m not sure if she is better behaved because of it. So, in the end, I will say he might not cause lasting psychological scars. Maybe we will know more in the next 20 years.
Certainly, if you read my last post you might surmise I am one of those Christians who shuns anything in the fluffy & puffy from the Christmas tradition arena. Well, no, I am not in that category whatsoever. Like a foreclosure sign in the lawn of a palm reader’s house, you didn’t see that coming.
Putting child psychology aside, the Elf On The Shelf, and St. Nick’s omnipresent, omniscient eyes are truly the opposite of the authentic act of the first Christmas. Can you guess what the difference is?
Contrary to a popular belief in our culture, I am not eternally rewarded by superior behavior walking in my shoes today. Let it be known: I AM SOOOOOO IMPERFECT! While I’m at it, don’t take Elf On The Shelf as a picture of what a good Christian does. The Babe in the manger grew up and said we should not judge anyone, or we will be judged. It’s not the Christian’s job to sit on a shelf and search for others to flub, fall, and falter. If you’re under a spiritual teacher which pounds that misnomer into your ears, I say run and never look back. In fact, a better suggestion is to take a pair of your well-worn shoes, nail them to his/her office door with a note which reads, “Walk in these for awhile.”
Sorry for my rabbit trail on thought. I’m no Scrooge. Really, I’m not.
As cute as Elf On The Shelf is, he is theologically off. The child in Bethlehem’s manger Christmas night was a free gift wrapped in swaddling clothes. You don’t get a free gift because you necessarily deserved it, but because someone loved you enough, thought of you enough, cared for you enough to go before you arrived and purchased it with a tag which reads your name, in whatever language you speak. Moreover, this free gift, the Baby in the manger, was given BECAUSE of misbehavior, BECAUSE of abuses, BECAUSE of flubs, falling, and falters, without condition. Let me write that again…WITHOUT CONDITION! Try that on some stranger. No, I mean it. Find a criminal who abused, or injured, or killed your family member, withdraw all you have in the bank, purchase a gift of great price and present it to the guilty law-breaker. Do I see any hands for a volunteer? No, I didn’t think so. Yet, that’s what God, the Author Of The Law did for us all. Today, we call it…Christmas. His unconditional free gift is truly the opposite of Elf On The Shelf.
For anyone who accepts this gift, who believes the adult Jesus when He said, “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…” – John 3:16a (KJV), will have the Spirit of His very essence within. He reminds me inwardly what is best for my life as He writes His law on my heart. It’s a good thing because I could never have a perfect behavioral stat concerning the Mosaic Law from the Torah found in the Old Testament.
So maybe if you see an elf hanging out on a shelf, it might bring to mind the idea of an elf inside yourself (In the flavor of Christmas trinkets.) whispering wisdom, guidance, and unconditional love. However, when diving deeply for a close-up excursion, you find the lacking of an elf, but rather, “RUACH” in Hebrew, the “Breath” of God’s nature.
Christmas can always be merry with a cup of good cheer, spiked with Fuel for the race.
“For the eyes of Yahweh roam throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His.” – 2 Chronicles 16:9 – (Holman Christian Standard Version)