This Elf on the Shelf alternative will send your family on a journey to Jesus this Christmas as you walk with the wise men.
It’s not that I have anything against that creepy little elf. It’s just that. . .well. . .he’s a little creepy. We’d managed to dodge the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon until my daughter started kindergarten and they did a version of it in class. Then all the kids began talking about where their elf showed up each morning at their own house. She came home begging us to join in on the fun, “Mommy, Nate’s elf was swinging from the ceiling fan this morning when he got up!”
But we’ve always placed our pre-Christmas focus on Advent and with the daily countdown (treats included) my girl seemed to be just fine when I told her we wouldn’t be making room on our shelf (or our ceiling fan) for the elf last year.
We’ll continue to read through the Bible as we count down to Christmas this Advent season, but I’m adding in our own little dose of fun. This year we’ll join the wise men as they journey toward Jesus. It’s a wonderful Elf on the Shelf alternative and you can make it as fun or as serious as your family desires.
I’m all about having fun throughout the holiday season. I believe Jesus wants us to celebrate as we look forward to his birthday. I don’t think there is anything wrong with participating in Elf on the Shelf or many other fun, holiday activities. However, if you’d like something a little more focused on the story of Christmas, I invite you to join us as we walk with the wise men this year.
Walk with the Wise Men :: An Elf on the Shelf Alternative
Read about the wise men in Matthew chapter 2.
Explain the concept of walking with the wise men to your family.
What to share with your child:
I know many of your friends are doing Elf on the Shelf with their families. This year, we are going to do something fun that is similar but more focused on the Christmas story. Do you remember the story of the wise men who came to visit Jesus after he was born? The wise men saw a star in the sky and they knew it would lead them to Jesus. They gathered their gifts and everything they would need for the trip and they set out to visit the baby. This month, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus ourselves, we are going to follow the wise men along their journey. Every day we’ll find them in a new place around the house as they make their way to the stable where baby Jesus sleeps.
Remind your children of the three gifts the wise men brought to Jesus. If you follow along the three Christmas gift plan we recommend, this will all come together for your family!
Gold – which represented value
Frankincense – which was used as perfume for the body
Myrrh – an oil used for anointing which represented spirituality
What you will need:
3 wise men (from your nativity if you have one so they can journey through the house and end up there on Christmas)
Step 1: Read the story of the Magi or Wise Men in Matthew chapter 2 with your family.
Step 2: Place the wise men somewhere visible in your home each day. Parents can move the wise men around daily or give kids a turn to find a new place for them on their journey.
Step 3: Each day after your kids locate the wise men, talk about the story in Matthew 2. Refer back to the details and give your children a chance to ask questions. This does not need to be formal or lengthy (especially if you are following along our simple family Advent reading plan spend your time on the devo and simply allow this to be an ongoing conversation in the morning as you get going for the day.)
Step 4: Make sure your children understand the wise men are not watching us. They are inviting us along their journey toward Jesus. By walking with them and preparing our hearts as they did to meet Jesus on Christmas, we will be ready to receive every gift he has to offer (both physical gifts and gifts of love, joy and peace, etc). And we will also be ready to give gifts with a heart that desires to bless others and honor him.
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11
Step 5: On Christmas morning, place the wise men in the nativity scene and talk about how they must have felt when they finally arrived to meet Jesus. Again, if you follow along the three Christmas gift plan this will all come together as you open gifts as a family, 3 gifts each – gold, frankincense and myrrh – all representing the important gifts given to baby Jesus by the wise men. Read the Christmas story together and reflect on the beauty of the story and how it is our story, too.
Questions to Ask Along the Journey:
- Why do you think the wise men were so excited to meet Jesus?
- What do you think it was like for them to travel so far for so long?
- The wise men brought Jesus some interesting gifts. Do you know why they were important?
- The Bible says the wise men “worshiped” Jesus when they met him. What does it mean to worship Jesus? How can we worship him today?
- The wise men were asked by King Herod where Jesus was. Why do you think they chose not to tell him?
- It must have taken great faith to follow a bright star and not know for sure where they were going. What does it mean to have faith?
Note: It’s up to you whether or not you explain to your children that the wise men actually reached Jesus long after his birth. You can share this fact with your children if you feel it won’t confuse them. This detail could have a great impact as you discuss the passion and commitment of the wise men who journeyed for what may have been years to reach king Jesus. However, if you want to keep it simple, there is nothing wrong with leaving out this time frame and allowing your children (especially little ones) to think they arrived around Christmas Day.
Whether you participate in the Elf on the Shelf game or choose to walk with the wise men this year, the most important thing is to enjoy each other as you anticipate Christmas as a family. Whatever that looks like in your home, may God be glorified and Jesus welcomed by your heart and love and joy this Christmas season.
What fun activities do you like to do as a family as you anticipate Christmas?
BLOOMTOWN FAITH – our family devotion Podcast is here! Join us December 1-24 for 5 minute, audio Advent devotionals you can listen to on the go!
Looking for SIMPLE ways to enjoy the season with family traditions that won’t bring overwhelm?
- Lead your family through a Bible ADVENTure from Genesis to Jesus’ birth with this simple Advent Bible Reading Plan.
- Follow hashtag #gatherforadvent on Facebook and/or Instagram where I’ll post the daily reading and a conversation question so you can continue your journey – anytime, anywhere!
- Listen to BLOOMTOWN, our brand new Podcast with a corresponding, 5 minute audio devotion you can listen to on the go!
- Grab our adorable Advent Story Cards, created in partnership with Color + Kindness, to give your kids a meaningful, hands on experience as you countdown to Christmas.