Advent—the season of waiting for Jesus—is here. I love the hustle and bustle of the holidays, everyone in a hurry and eager to celebrate. My little family goes to the mall to people watch and we also walk around downtown, listening to the carolers and watching the ice skaters. Joy is in the air! I also love all the traditions, and every year I look for more ways to point my children to understanding the importance of Immanuel, God with us.
We didn’t grow up doing Santa; we had lovely traditions, but we didn’t share the secular customs that many of our friends did. So as a mama, I’ve been intentional about creating our own traditions. We’ve decided we are happy to include mainstream traditions if we can make sure they ultimately point to the birth of Jesus. And one of the things we do is the Elf on the Shelf.
I admit I secretly love the idea of a creepy elf popping up somewhere new every day and, with a wink in its creepy eye, reminding children that they are being watched. It somehow satisfies a dark side of my sense of humor! I always laugh at pictures of how creative parents have chosen to display their elves. So much fun! But let’s be honest—I’m not that creative, and I’m also not sure how to navigate conversation with my 3- and 4-year olds about how their every move is being watched and scrutinized to determine whether or not they’re deserving of gifts. It sounds like the opposite of Grace, and while I don’t condemn the tradition, it simply doesn’t mesh with our family’s idea of Advent.
And yet…I still love that creepy elf. So we decided a while back to jump on the Kindness Elf bandwagon and have our elf waiting each morning with a suggestion of how to love others through an act of kindness. Here are the acts of kindness we do; these are geared toward our preschoolers, but they could easily be adapted for older kids or for your family’s circumstances.
- Smile at every single person you see today!
- FaceTime (or call) someone who lives alone.
- Say a special prayer for someone who is sad.
- Collect toys to donate to needy children.
- Mail pictures and letters to family members who live far away.
- Take cookies to a neighbor.
- Feed the birds.
- Take Christmas gifts/cookies/flowers to the church staff.
- Contact a local nursing home/assisted living facility and ask if there is someone our family could adopt for Christmas.
- Collect coins from piggy banks to put in the Salvation Army collection buckets.
- Help Mama sort laundry.
- Serenade Papa with a Christmas song when he comes home from work.
- Take Christmas presents to your teachers.
- Say a special prayer for someone who is sick.
- Collect clothes that you’ve outgrown to give to needy children.
- Make thank-you cards/pictures to give to the mail carrier.
- Go caroling at the church office.
- Set the table for dinner and then clear the table afterward.
- Take a walk around the neighborhood and pick up any trash you find.
- Prepare a meal for a family that has a tired mama!
- Make your beds and tidy your room.
- Pray a special prayer for someone who is lonely.
- Have Mama help you write a letter to tell someone how much you love them.
- Spend time in prayer and Thanksgiving as a family, thanking God for his ultimate act of kindness in sending Jesus to us. Immanuel!