S-Elf on the Shelf
The day all the kids go home for Thanksgiving break was one of my favorite afternoons in my classroom every year.
Not only was there a deep sigh of relief for a few days away, spending time with loved ones, but it meant one more thing...
It was time to pull out the festive polka-dot and striped ornaments to hang from the ceiling, string tinsel across the top of the whiteboards, and set out a little Christmas tree.
And of course, welcome Snowflake.
She was both a gift for managing crazy holiday behavior and sometimes responsible for adding to it with her own crazy holiday behavior.
She was our class' beloved Elf on the Shelf.
She'd leave us messages in M&M's, zip-line across the classroom, show off her ballerina tutu, have a tea party with our stuffed animal reading buddies, and get into all kinds of creative mischief.
There's no doubt, she made our classroom more fun those few weeks leading up to Christmas. Everyone walked in with their eyes wide and their hearts full. Instead of the sometimes sleepy faces with pop-tart crumbs I would sometimes greet at the door, I was met with...
You know, I think this is what these days leading up to Christmas are about.
We don't need Snowflake around to have this, though, because once Christmas is over, Snowflake is nowhere to be found.
If we want the anticipation and wonder and joy to stick around, it can't be found on a shelf. It comes from somewhere else. Somewhere deeper. Somewhere within.
We find it grows within our hearts as we read the story of Christmas.
As we begin preparing our hearts for Christmas, let's start with a question. How? How did Jesus come? How did Jesus live?
How did God send Jesus to save and redeem the world?
As a newborn.
But here's the thing... God did not have to send His only Son to earth as a baby. He could have sent Him as a grown man with superior military stature and physical strength. That's what the people were expecting. God could have skipped the whole childhood and teenage thing and had Jesus save the world in a moment.
But He didn't.
Instead, He sent His only Son to live a humble life. His ministry as we see in Luke 3 did not begin until He was about thirty years old, which beckons another three-letter question...
Why would God purpose for His Son - fully man and fully God - to spend thirty plus years on earth?
Because He longs to connect, to have relationship WITH us.
Because Jesus came and felt the pains and joys and weariness and hunger and sleepiness and anger and temptation and grief of humanity, we can come to Him and talk to Him about all of it, because He understands. He has felt it all. How selfless. He didn't have to, but He did because He preferred us over His own comfort.
As His followers, this is how we are to live in response to His example and the undeserved preference we've received.
While we're having fun and putting Elf on the Shelf this year, maybe, just maybe, we can remember to add an S. Let's put self on the shelf this year, too. Let's be intentional to not think less of ourselves but to think of ourselves less.
Holidays are meant to be this glorious time of cheer and family and fun and special memories, but often they're dreaded ...even by the most devoted Christians. I don't want this to be me. I don't want to dread Christmas, but I get it. The expectations and obligations are overwhelming. I don't have this all figured out, but I can share my focus:
Practice being selfless this Christmas by preferring one another.
It's a command in scripture, but it doesn't mean we people-please. It means we listen to the needs and desires of others and show them honor as appropriate. By "as appropriate," I mean healthy boundaries are not just okay but necessary when preferring others. In Jesus' ministry, we see He didn't neglect rest because He had to "prefer others." No, He took time and space to be alone, to be with His Father, to be with His disciples who helped Him recharge. Preferring others is not a command with the absence of boundaries as we may be inclined to think for "selfless" reasons but is practiced and obeyed within healthy boundaries.
Say for example, you want to buy your child a particular gift but your spouse has something else in mind. A healthy boundary may be the price of the gift. If the other gift doesn't exceed the budget and would bring your child joy, why not prefer your spouse this time?
Maybe you're pulling into the grocery parking lot and a fellow driver is rushing to beat you to the ideal parking spot. The boundary to ensure you're not people pleasing would be that you're not already in the parking spot. If not, why not pause and motion for the other driver to take the preferred spot?
Practicing it in these little ways helps us when it comes to the bigger moments like showing preference to an extended family member and hosting them graciously or holding your tongue when politics and other emotionally-charged conversations begin.
When we do this, love fills the room selfishness vacated within us and others experience a little more of the gift of Christmas. They experience Jesus through us.
May God's selfless gift of His Son strengthen us and give us joy to spread this love with others. May we find peace to prefer one another as we remember how He has preferred us and rest knowing He is WITH us always - forever and ever, amen.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
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