In this season of rush and bustle leading up to the birth of Jesus, we often find ourselves relying on cultural tales to support our parenting. Please beware of undercutting the Gospel of Jesus Christ as you talk to your children about their behavior in December.
If you use the “Santa fable” that speaks of the naughty and nice list, beware that you might be teaching your children that gifts are earned – including the main gift at Christmas which is unearned and undeserved. Nevermind the fact that the song says, “he sees you when you’re sleeping” giving to Santa attributes that only God can possess, and if we are honest, are a little creepy for an old man.
We do have “Santa” come at our house but we try never to make gifts dependent upon behavior. We also try not to use Santa as a substitute disciplinarian. Our discipline is about the heart and is focused on eternity. The last thing we want to do is undercut the Gospel.
The elf on a shelf is a similar fable that I have never used. My understanding though is that, besides causing some household mischief, his main purpose is behavior modification. If this is the case in your house, I encourage you to think through the ramifications of what you are teaching. The elf may make the next 23 days a little easier, but our jobs as parents are about eternity.
The great gift at Christmas is Jesus. He comes precisely because we are on the naughty list and unable to behave. He is God’s free gift of grace for all. Let’s teach our children about eternity and not unwittingly mislead them with cultural fables.
Fr. Shay +