The Elf on the Shelfas a Christmas tradition provides one explanation for how Santa knows whether children are naughty or nice. Those who utilize this method can have lots of fun (and interesting conversations) by moving the elf around the house each day. The website details the process of acquiring an elf and offers suggestions for maximizing the effect. Relocating the elf keeps the mystery alive.
Recently, my husband and I visited several national parks and experienced an element of mystery. Rather than an elf randomly showing up, we noticed a single black crow that was at nearly every parking lot. At the first location, we noticed how large this bird had gotten. It’s shiny feathers glistened in the sun and he (?) seemed unfazed by the presence of cars or people walking about. His size could be accounted for by the “donations” he received from some of the people at the park. They seemed to have fun tossing grapes, crackers, or other food scraps to him…which probably contributed to his massive size. Later, we saw a single, large, black crow at other parking lots, and different national parks or states. Eventually, we began to wonder if it was the same crow and we were being followed or spied upon. We knew that a single crow could not fly hundreds of miles to welcome us to different locations, but it was comical to consider it.
Neither the fictional elf or the ever-present crow are able to observe our behavior or report it to an authority figure. However, Christians do have an observer of sorts. But, rather than merely “spying” as some think, the Holy Spirit is much, much more beneficial for believers.
Certainly, when sin is contemplated or observed, the Spirit convicts for our benefit to bring us to repentance and forgiveness (John 16:8-11; Gal. 6:8) . But, groups and individuals facing difficult situations, decisions, or problems can rely on the Holy Spirit for more than conviction. The Holy Spirit guides, encourages, equips, and empowers believers. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, the character of Christ is formed (2 Cor. 3:18).
We are transformed, changed, and renewed by the power of the Spirit. No elf or crow can accomplish this, no matter how magical they seem.