The Gift of Elf-ing
Dec 17, 2017 05:46AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
I have a confession to make. I love elf-ing. Yes, that is the verb form of elf, and no, it is not in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. I am not referring to the infamous The Elf on the Shelf (which, while cute, I don’t participate in, by the way, because I stay away from traditions I know I will fail).
While I love the movie Elf, that is not where I’m going with this.
Love me some J.R.R. Tolkien Middle-Earth, Rivendell Elves of The Lord of the Rings fame, but those graceful, immortal, pointy-eared creatures are not what I had in mind either.
The elf-ing I am talking about does not require striped tights and a springy hat. I don’t have to wear green. I merely have to consider the following questions to get started:
Who needs extra love this season?
Is there anyone I would like to bless to show my appreciation for who that person is, what (he or) she has meant to me, or what (he or) she has done for me?
With this person in mind, how is love best communicated to her:
Acts of service?
Words expressed, written or verbal?
The gift of my time and my presence?
When I plan the best timing of such a delivery, I want to consider:
Does this person enjoy people stopping by or prefer a silent drop-off?
What time of day/week is less stressful?
Is there a significant time or season the person needs this touch of love (a death anniversary of a loved one, a recent struggle with a child, marriage, time of illness, etc.)?
Is she a take-me-out-to-the-local-coffeehouse kind of person?
Does she prefer the quiet of her own (or my) home?
Is she energized by crowds, such as at a mall?
Does she prefer time in the company of several friends over dinner or just a one-to-one time with me?
Because elf-ing is the best way to intentionally live out this:
Ephesians 2:10, ESV
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Elf-ing is living this out every day, to some extent, not just at Christmas. It is reminding people of Immanuel, God with us, by noticing and blessing them.
I go through seasons when I am more consistent with this than at other times. When I am able to do so, I often start with what is around the house. Who needs a meal, for example?
I used to fret that my meal had to be gourmet, completely fresh, and six courses. Now, I know that simply showing up with a box of snacks, packaged and otherwise, with some thought put into it for the need: tissues, Emergen-C packets, peppermint essential oil, tissues, kombucha, chicken soup for someone with respiratory illness, for example.
At other times, I have brought a little gift to the mailbox acknowledging something important to that person (favorite chocolate, music, dog breed).
Part of why elf-ing blesses me so much is because I dedicate some time praying for and thinking about the needs and personality of someone, and I then steer my love offering in that direction.
“This made me think of you. You matter. I notice you. You are loved.”
And we all need more of that, yes?
Luke 2:11-14, KJV
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
What about you? Have you ever been the recipient of good will toward men?
Can you see the connection between Christ the Lord being born, angels praising God, and peace on earth? How can this be when life is still difficult, wars rage, natural disasters rip through regions, children starve, violence happens, and slavery of several varieties takes place, seemingly unchecked, throughout the planet?
Yeah, this side of the Garden of Eden (now that we’re kicked out) is not so pretty. It is exactly why a Savior was needed. Christmas had to lead to Easter. A stable delivery room was one step toward the cross of Calvary.
And when we look at the state of our world and the heinous acts humanity is capable of toward creation (both each other and created life around us), don’t we need to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living?
Psalm 27:13-14, KJV
[I had fainted], unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
I need to see it every day. It’s a breath of hope, a twinkle of light, in a fallen world.
And the message of Christmas is that we are to wait on the Lord we have been given. He will bring strength to our hearts!
That is what elf-ing is all about: being the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Reminding others on the journey with us of that hope that was born on Christmas.
When I was in the depths of heartache and wrenching betrayal a few years ago, a friend simply texted me that if I would please get out of bed for just one moment, she had a Starbucks peppermint mocha waiting for me at the door. Simple. Inexpensive (okay, I know, it was Starbucks, so a bit pricey). But that one act of getting out of my bed was hope to me. It poured life into me in a way that only a Jesus-inspired gift can. It let me know that not every moment had to be this dark. Hope had come. This, too, would pass.
I could tell many stories like this one: the time when several friends transported my kids to their activities or a box of tender loving care when I had pneumonia and a dear one who sat with me in the NICU as we watched my infant daughter struggle with a Staph infection.
We all have these stories.
So I challenge you to look for opportunities to “elf” this holiday season (and always). Look deep within your heart and ask who has shown you the goodness of the Lord in your life. Thank Him.
And then ask God who needs to see it from you?
You may be surprised, but we are often inspired to love people who are different from the ones who have been the arms and feet of Jesus to us. And when we are, we know that it is God prompting us.
Earlier I mentioned Luke 2:14 from the King James Version of the Bible. Here it is below in the English Standard Version. Notice the difference?
Luke 2:14, ESV
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!
Who enjoys the peace, the favor (New International Version), the good will toward men?
Those with whom He is pleased.
I don’t know about you, but I want to please Him, and in so doing, I want to spread His peace to all.
Who can you elf this season? It’s the best way to celebrate the gift of Christmas—to honor the Christ in the manger, the same one hanging on the cross and later ascending into heaven—by loving the people He came to die for.
I promise if you do this, as the psalmist says, He will strengthen your heart.
Let me know what elf-ing you’ve come up with. I’d love to hear about it!
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.