Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

The Birth of Christ vs. The Elf on the Shelf

Luke 2:6-7

6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

profileChristmas is coming!  There – I said it again.  I saw on Facebook this week a discussion about an elf on the shelf.  Apparently some parents use an elf on the shelf to help keep their children in line during the weeks and even months heading to Christmas.

Here’s how an elf on the shelf works.  You buy an elf statue or figurine and place it around the house on different shelves or vantage points (way above the children’s reach).  You tell your children that this is one of Santa’s elves and that the elf reports back to Santa on whether they have been naughty or nice.  The elf has been sent to their home to watch them and report back whether the children in this house are listening to their parents and of course the consequence of what it reports will be seen on Christmas morning.  Wow – talk about the commercialization of Christmas!!  Talk about manipulation of our children!!  Talk about telling our children lies!!

Christian parents must constantly wrestle with fantasy and the truth in our culture.  Wrestling with fantasy and reality is always a point of contention with Christian parents.  Do we tell our children about Santa – the Tooth Fairy – the Easter Bunny – and other fictitious characters?  How much do we play these characters up or how much do we not?  What about Barney (the purple dinosaur on Sesame Street?  Or Sponge Bob?  Is fantasy wrong?  Believing in something that is not true – is that OK or could that be harmful?  Christian parents are called to wrestle with these questions.

Here’s my take.  Be careful how much you push the stories of fantasy.  Be careful how you buy into the secular fantasies.  And DO NOT use them to manipulate your children or their behavior.  And here’s one reason why.  When they find out that these characters you have made so real throughout their childhood are fake and fantasy – how will you convince them that the stories you have told them about Jesus are really real – really!

Here’s today’s passage in partial context.  It is the story we tell every Christmas.  If we have lied to our children about so many hard to believe in characters as they have grown up – how will they believe in this amazing story?  Some have – I understand.  But I still say Christian parents need to wrestle with this area of their child’s growing years.

Luke 2:4-12 – 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

I’m not saying Christian parents shouldn’t tell their children about Santa and the other fictional characters mentioned and even others.  What I’m saying is that Christian parents should wrestle with fiction and truth and be prepared for the questions that fiction and truth will produce in their children.  As Christian parents – your truthfulness and believability could be essential elements in your children’s acceptance of Jesus!  Remember – Jesus is the reason for the season – not Santa! (And I understand the stories of Saint Nicholas so don’t get offended.  Christmas is about Jesus – the greatest gift ever given!)  Think about this my friends – if we are to be believed by our children we must be believable.  Our integrity with them is essential.

Just something to think about today as you go on your way.


December 11, 2013 - Posted by | Advent Thought, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Marriage, Outreach, Personal | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. If the story of Saint Nicholas is told correctly, then the child will understand that Jesus is the reason for the season. What motivated Saint Nicholas? So St. Nick (aka Santa Claus) represents “someone who loves Jesus and you (the child) very much.” In time the child will realize that the anonymous “someone” is their parent and no lie has been told.


    Comment by Jane | December 11, 2013 | Reply

    • I certainly agree with you Jane but I wonder how many Christian families tell the story of Saint Nicolas pointed at Jesus rather than the secular concept of materialism? I would agree that Santa can be focused on Jesus if we present it that way. Thanks for your thoughts.


      Comment by raymcdonald | December 11, 2013 | Reply

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