“Judge not, that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1
It was not supposed to be this way. As a little girl, she had envisioned her first baby born in the presence of her mother and aunts, who knew what to expect and could help her endure the mystery of childbirth. Instead, she was with Joseph, her beloved, traveling ninety miles from her home to Bethlehem, with the impending birth expected any day. The roads were dusty, the days hot, the nights cold, and the scenery unfamiliar, leaving her sore, uncomfortable, and tired. As she reflected on the last few months, she recalled whispers of judgment and disgust from her neighbors, friends, and family. She looked at Joseph, who held his head high despite all the gossip about his decision to marry the woman who they thought had betrayed him. Even though they both new the truth of her pregnancy, the comments still pierced her heart and wounded her soul. Despite these wounds, she remained confident in God and continued her journey, unaware that there would be more visits by angels, shepherds, and wise men.
Knowing the end of the story, it’s easy to look with disdain on the people who gossiped about Mary and Joseph. Yet, part of the Advent experience is recognizing our need for a Savior. I have been doing some soul searching the last few years and I have concluded that I have been judgmental about other people, including some of their Christmas practices. For example, I admit I sneered at the “Elf on the Shelf” antics that many families orchestrated for their children. I believed it was another piece of evidence of how others were minimizing the real reason for Christmas. But my sneering at other people’s family traditions is no different than the gossipers in Jerusalem. I have no idea how these “Elf on the Shelf” families may, or may not, be incorporating Jesus into their Christmas celebrations. And, more importantly, it is not aligning my spirit with the spirit of Advent. This has moved me to repentance and a change of heart. Although “Elf on the Shelf” was not part of my family traditions, I smile and listen attentively when I hear children talk about their mischievous elves!