I do not like the Elf on The Shelf idea and we don't have one in our house,
At first when I saw the idea take the Facebook posts by storm I though it would be fun to do when Jonathan gets a little bigger. But I could not justify buying the thing, making sure to move it from place to place every day, make up the whole thing which is surrounded by a bigger lie - it's all about Santa, presents and being good or bad just to get stuff.
First it seems like a lot of work for a silly and almost cruel character who messes up a lot of things (which we parents have to clean up), doesn't obey rules (but expects children to follow), spies on the children (horrible telltale) and wants you to work for your gifts (you have to be good enough to receive presents).
The message of Christmas is that Jesus came to this earth and gave us the biggest gift of all. We don't have to work for the gift. All we have to do is accept Him.
The elf idea promotes the persona of santa and makes children believe that he will end up knowing everything they do. While including santa into holiday celebration is not horrible, it takes away from the character of God who actually knows everything and see everything. But you don't have to be afraid of Him because He will not take the gifts away just because you misbehave.
It also justifies mischief while promoting fear. Maybe it doesn't seem very obvious but the elf is constantly looking over you, checking on your every deed to make sure you are 'good enough'. Some kids don't care about the elf but some maybe afraid that they can never measure up to the standard for good boys and girls. That's completely opposite of what Jesus teaches us.
Last children have so much trust for the adults in their lives so when we make up lies and fake characters, they believe it as truth (up to the age of 10). When we include santa, elf and other cartoon-like characters and make them real, we blur the lines between fantasy and reality. So after we tell them how the elf works they believe that it's true. Then we go on and teach them the Christmas story in the Sunday school, they sing Christmas carols believing that it's true also. When the time comes to tell them that santa, rudolf and the elf are not real they are confused. Maybe that Jesus character is not real either?
Christmas is about Jesus not about any other name.
We treat the characters of santa, the elf and others as any persona from a cartoon. Yes it's there. Yes some people make it a part of their celebration. There are songs about them but the holiday is not about them.
Santa doesn't bring presents. Parents love their children and give them the gifts, doesn't matter how bad or good behaved they are. We love them unconditionally.
Elf on the Shelf is not going to spy on you or tell on you. He isn't much more than any other cartoon character (if they happen to see it at someone's house). They don't have to be afraid of anything or ever be good enough to receive things. God loves them unconditionally.
That's the message of Christmas and that's what I want my children to remember. The love, the joy and merry spirit of the season without any ill-behaved, mass-produced, popular character which no one will even remember in a few years when they will come with something new to sell.
They won't miss out on Christmas tradition because we will make our own, doing kind things for our neighbors and loving each other. They won't be spoiled with presents for being good or robbed of them for misbehaving because we love them no matter what. They will play and get mischievous without being afraid of being told on.
And they will have a great Christmas.
Hope you will too!