What the Sisters and Elf Taught Me About Christmas

Elf is one of my favorite Christmas movies. While I’m not always a big fan of the Christmas season, this Will Ferrell movie about Buddy, a human raised by elves, who must go to New York to find his biological father, can always make me laugh and get in the holiday spirit.

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When I tell people I’m not a big fan of Christmas

This year, as I watched the film, a cup of hot coco in my hand, I couldn’t help but notice that many of the holiday themes that play throughout this lighthearted film are the same themes I see reflected every day by the sisters I interact with at work, especially around the holidays. And so, for some lighthearted Christmas fun, I offer you 4 ways that Sisters of St. Joseph are like Buddy the Elf.

1. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear

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Okay, this first one might be the most obvious, but Sisters have Christmas spirit in spades! Our centers have been decorated in Christmas cheer for weeks, giant trees, beautiful nativity sets, and twinkle lights lining every hallway. Even as someone who can sometimes be a Scrooge, encountering the sisters and all their Christmas cheer puts me in the holiday spirit very much in the same way that Buddy’s insistent Christmas singing and holiday cheer bring a smile to my face.

Old Entryway

2. There’s room for everyone on the nice list

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One of the three rules of the elves is that there’s room for everyone on the nice list. In fact, Buddy finds out his biological father is on the naughty list and knows he has to do something to help bring him around to the nice side. Similarly, the sisters love the dear neighbor, without distinction. They seek to bring all people together as one with God, and all creation. No matter our pasts, no matter our circumstances in life, there is always room for us.

3. Christmas Spirit is about believing, not seeing

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For many, this season has become about the commercialized idea of Christmas. I know, for me, that’s one of the reasons I struggle with the holiday. Rushing around to buy presents, bake cookies, and get pictures with Santa can make us forget what Christmas is really about. At one point in the film, Santa’s sleigh won’t fly, because not enough people believe in the magic of christmas.  Buddy’s brother asks Santa why he doesn’t just show himself to the crowd of people in New York. After all, if people see Santa, they’ll have to believe in him, right? But, Santa says, Christmas is about believing, not seeing. It’s about having faith.


Advent is a season of faith. A season of anticipation and belief in the coming of something bigger than ourselves, even though it is something we can’t tangibly see. Understanding that the season of Advent is about faith, hope and belief, not about shopping, is something that the sisters have really helped me understand this Christmas. Check out the sisters weekly Advent reflections to see what I mean.

4. It’s all about love

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So what saves Christmas in the movie? What makes Santa’s sleigh fly and allows Buddy’s father to shun commercialism and return to the nice list? Love. At the end, the heart of the movie is love, and realizing that our love for others is what matters. Of course, the sisters exude love in all they do. Love for each other, love for the dear neighbor, love for the world. By choosing to act out of love, the sisters, and Buddy, have reminded me that what really matters are the relationships we make, with our loved ones, with each other, and with God. When we celebrate Jesus’s birth on Christmas, we’re celebrating the ultimate gift of love to the world.

I hope your Christmas is filled with love, hope, and Christmas spirit. And of course, plenty of smiles.

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About the Author

Elizabeth-Powers,-WebElizabeth Powers is the Electronic Communications Manager for the Congregation of St. Joseph and manages the blog, Beyond the Habit. She sometimes acts as a contributing writer. She loves reading, writing, Harry Potter, and PBS. This year, she’s working on loving Christmas.

18 thoughts on “What the Sisters and Elf Taught Me About Christmas

  1. Carol Crepeau says:

    Thanks Elizabeth, this is a happy inspiring blog,
    Merry Christmas,

    Carol Crepeau CSJ

    Congregation of St. Joseph
    1515 W. Ogden Ave.
    LaGrange Park IL. 60526


  2. David Haase says:

    Elizabeth, I enjoyed reading your blog. What a wonderful way to express the joy that the sisters are and how being with them everyday has an influce on our lives and an insperatiobn for us to follow. Merry Christmas! David


  3. Theresa Pitruzzello says:

    Elizabeth, thanks for sharing this. Yes, LOVE is the heart of the matter–of Advent anticipation and Christmas joy. Having never seen ELF, I will have to watch it this year!
    Theresa Pitruzzello, CSJ


  4. Jeannie Masterson says:

    Elizabeth, what an excellent reflective writer you are! Thanks for your imagination, your incorporation of symbols, your open heart!
    Merry Christmas.


  5. Sallie Latkovich says:

    Oh, Elizabeth! This is simply wonderful. Love the four wisdoms for Christmas. May you and your family enjoy a Merry Christmas!


  6. Judith Smith Wilkinson says:

    Although I am only now — two days after Christmas Day — reading and seeing this, it is wonderful and peace filled. Thank you, Beyond the Habit!


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