Invite Elf on the Shelf to an Advent Activity This Year

advent, Elf on the Shelf

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What if I told you that a simple Christmas family activity that serves others would not only bond your family closer together but create lasting memories? For most of us, reaching out to others during the holidays requires a deliberate, well-planned, “we’re all in” family activity. The Secret 12 Days of Christmas Advent Activity provides a simple, fun way to focus minds and hearts on others.

Before I go any further, I have nothing against the Elf on a Shelf yuletide activity. The recent Christmas tradition has gone viral in America. While the EOTS enhances the season, it can detract families from devoting time and energy to activities that serve others.

The doe-eyed sprite dressed in red and green doesn’t whiz and whoosh through our hallways and land on any of our shelves. However, countless of my friends who are far more creative and energetic than me open their doors and windows to the Elf on the Shelf in the days that lead up to Christmas.

As a part of your Elf on the Shelf tradition, for 12 days incorporate your Elf’s magical antics in bringing joy to a neighbor in need. Bestselling author and founder of WholeHeart Ministries Sally Clarkson reminds parents that “Our children need to see us reaching out in love, and they need to be included in our acts of service.” Invite the Elf to be part of the plan.

Unite as a Family and Serve Someone’s Deep Need

As parents, it’s a challenge to balance the excitement of experiencing yuletide festivities and traditions with cultivating a spirit of giving. Author and professional communicator, Gary Moreland comments in his book, A Family Shaped by Grace,It’s great to do anything together as a family, but helping someone together as a family—whether it’s your entire family or only part of it—has the most beneficial effect.

To deviate from the typical path of Christmas consumerism is not easy, especially during the time of year when self-absorption is socially acceptable. Taking time as a family to train and model how to serve others will have a lasting effect on your children.

As image-bearers of a loving God, we should strive to expand love to the corners of our cities, towns, and neighborhoods.  The Secret 12 Days of Christmas is a tool to use during the holiday to express compassion and love to an unsuspecting recipient(s).

How The Secret 12 Days of Christmas Works

It’s simple.

Download the No-Fuss Healthy Living’s Christmas Inspiration Ebook kit. The kit includes everything you will need to complete the Advent activity. Also, the Ebook provides recipes, suggested gift ideas, and instructions for no-fuss homemade gifts. At the end of the Ebook, you will find 12 festive gift tags that tell the Advent story. Be sure to print and attach the gift tags to your gifts.

DIY Christmas


Your family selects a recipient(s). Pray about who to choose this year. Often, there is a family who needs an extra dose of compassion.  Maybe there is a neighbor that your family has wanted to get to know and what better way to build a friendship than through serving them.


Your secret gifts will be delivered the 12 days before Christmas. The twelfth day is the BIG reveal. Deliver your gifts any time throughout the day. It’s exciting to plan a delivery strategy to throw off any suspicion. Some days we deliver late at night (the most fun) while other days we drop off the gifts while the household is away at work and school.

IMPORTANT DETAIL: On day 1 of the activity, inform the recipients that they will receive 12 secret gifts leading up to and including Christmas Eve.


Because you will secretly visit your recipient for twelve consecutive days, it’s best to stay close to home.  On the other hand, if you’re feeling adventuresome and have the time to travel, don’t let distance stand in your way.


How you decide to deliver the gift will be up to you.  We like the thrill of covertly providing the gifts.  The activity works best if you have all of your gifts wrapped and tagged a few days before the start date.  Remember, the gifts are small tokens of friendship, not extravagant purchases. Homemade gifts add a personal touch to the activity so be sure to include a few.

A Look Back Over the Years at Some of Our 12 Days of Christmas Recipients

  • a young neighbor with brain cancer: the young man and his wife, became close friends for years before cancer eventually consumed his body.
  • An elderly neighbor with lung cancer who faithfully served our community in multiple ways. During the 12 Secret Days Advent Activity, even though feeble from cancer, he waited each day in anticipation for the small gifts.
  • The father with a terminal illness – within a few days of our Christmas sleuthing, a security camera gave away our identity. Because the family enjoyed the 12 Secret Days activity, they kept their identity revelation to themselves until the delivery of the final gift.
  • A lonely elderly couple: to deliver gifts to this sweet couple, we belly crawled across the well-lit driveway to transport the package each night.
  • Young parents who needed encouragement:  within three days of the 12 Secret Days, we bumped into the young father as he took out the trash one night. Yikes! We continued to deliver the gifts, and they accepted our invitation to the Christmas Eve service.  We remain friends with this delightful couple who attend church not far from their home.
  • A doctor who faithfully serves our community (and his family): they suspected us in the end, but our Secret 12 Days brought loads of pre-Christmas wonder. The death of our puppy prevented us from completing two days of the holiday shenanigans.

The Secret 12 Days Advent Activity Shares About the Hope That is Coming

You see that the Secret 12 Days of Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect to be meaningful. Yes, your covert delivery may go awry. Your recipient’s security camera may be revealed your family trying to dodge his moving snowflake laser light projector. What matters most is the genuine act of kindness behind the activity. Finish the Secret 12 Days, (Elf included) knowing that you shared about ” the glorious celebration of the hope that is ours, represented by that baby in a manager who has come on a mission of rescue and deliverance.

Click here for the  Soulful, No-FUSS Healthy Living Christmas Inspiration Ebook with Advent Activity


The resources that I mentioned in this post would make great gifts to use for the Secret 12 Days Advent activity:

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  1. Hannah Savage on December 12, 2018 at 2:42 pm
    What a beautiful concept! Love it. 🎄
    • Denise Sultenfuss on December 12, 2018 at 3:38 pm
      Thanks Hannah

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