Elmer the Elf.

I have to tell you something that may come as a shock: my mom had the original idea for “Elf on a Shelf.” I’m so serious. Only his name was Elmer, and he wasn’t an actual doll. Ok, so it may have been a little different, but it’s the same general concept. Hear me out:

I never, ever saw Elmer, but all throughout the Christmas season he’d leave me little notes about what he saw me doing and how I was behaving. He would tell me that he was reporting back to Santa that I was being a good girl, (always, obviously) that I was doing a great job practicing my flute, (pictured below…betcha didn’t know there was a flute shaped like that for kids with too-short of arms.) and playing nicely with my cousin Claire (also pictured below…we loved matching). I remember times when I’d be practicing my flute and I’d quick look outside to see if I could catch Elmer watching me. I never did…

There were even times when I’d “almost” catch Elmer, and in his haste to run away, he’d lose one of the jingle bells from his shoes. I’d find them in the hallway, and he’d always write to me the next day, saying how I almost saw him! Every time I remember being so bummed, and hope for another chance to catch him. I never did. He was just too fast for me.

Now that I’m an adult, I think back on Elmer the elf and honestly he seems like a total creepster. (Hello Peeping Tom.) However, I know a lot of people use the same gimmick, only using Santa, or now the Elf on the Shelf, trying to get their kids to behave during the holidays. Hey, no judgement, it totally used to work on me. I always tried to be on my best behavior leading up to Christmas, so that Santa would get only good reports from Elmer, and I would get good things under the tree instead of coal in my stocking. As for my behavior the other times of the year…you’ll have to ask my parents about that one.

But really when you think about it, there IS someone constantly watching our behavior, hoping we make good choices, and do our best to love others well. And it’s not in a creepy, peeping Tom sort of way, it’s in a loving, Creator to creation way. I bet you know who I’m talking about…say it with me: Jesus!

Stuart and I haven’t decided whether we’re going to do the whole Santa thing when we have kids. We probably are, it’s just so fun and magical. And I don’t know about the Elf on the Shelf…but maybe Elmer will make a “reappearance.” But more than that, we want to teach our children (and remind ourselves) that Jesus is the real person we should be seeking to please. Whether you’re 3 or 33, we need to remember that instead of being good to get lots of presents under the tree, we should strive to do good in order to glorify our Heavenly Father. He knows everything we do, even before we do it! And luckily, our actions don’t determine our worth or our eternity.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Ephesians 2:8-10

Santa gives us gifts dependent on how good we are. Jesus’ gift came first, and was not dependent on whether we do good or bad. Our good deeds are a result of Jesus’ gift, not for the purpose of receiving it or keeping it. We have no fear of receiving “coal” when it comes to Jesus, His gift has already been given. All we need to do is accept it.

This Christmas, and every day following, we should remember that Jesus is the “real Santa.” He is the one of whom we can ask anything we need. He is the one who wants us to sit at His feet and tell Him our deepest desires. He is the one who can give us the greatest gift of all, better than anything Santa could bring us. He gave us His life for ours, so that we can spend eternity with Him. All we have to do is open our hands and our hearts and accept it. And really, who wouldn’t want to accept the most perfect gift ever given? Especially when we don’t have to do anything to get it.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are [human], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Matthew 7:7-11