Though we do believe in Santa Claus, we try really hard to deemphasize his role in the Christmas season and to instead focus on the excitement of the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

December means time for our facebook feeds to be filled with funny and sometimes inappropriate pictures of sweet, smiling elves posing in unique locals.  The Elf on the Shelf adds a bit of interactive merriment to the season, and even though our family does not have one, I do appreciate the idea.  I like the searching and surprise aspects of Elf on a Shelf, so this year I decided to adapt the concept to draw my kids into the Nativity story.

Like every year, there is a stable setup on our fireplace mantel, but this year, other than a couple cattle, the stable is empty.  The shepherds and sheep are arranged on a shelf with some house plants across the room.  The wise men, camels, and baby Jesus are still packed away, and Mary and Joseph are in my daughter’s bedroom at the far end of the house.  I explained to the kids that that room represents Nazareth and our living room is Bethlehem.

Each day as we lead up to Christmas, I am going to place Mary and Joseph further and further along a path through our house to Bethlehem.   Each morning the kids will have the task of finding them somewhere in the house along their journey.  On Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph will arrive at the stable and then on Christmas morning baby Jesus and the shepherds will join them.  Then we will follow the path of the wise men as they travel to find baby Jesus.  They will arrive on Epiphany, January 6th, as celebrated in the traditional Christian calendar.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.   Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."  Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV)

God asks us to be focused on Him every day of the year.  My prayer is that this little game helps my family to develop this habit by turning our focus on Him each day of this holiday season.