I believe in Santa Claus.

No, I don’t believe there is truly a man in a red suit with mini friends who make millions of toys in the Arctic Circle. But I do believe in sharing joy and love, both of which are important to Santa. Many may think you can’t believe in Santa and celebrate Jesus at the same time. If that’s you, this next sentence will surprise you.

Life as an elf has helped me to get to know Jesus better.

Two years ago, a family friend, who also happens to be Santa’s daughter, called me and asked if I would like to work for her father. At first, it seemed a little crazy. I was a busy college student with a lot to do. When would I have time to fly up to the North Pole? Luckily for me, Santa would be visiting Portland, making it much more accessible for me. I agreed, and thus began my career as an elf.

As Santa’s Helper, I have learned how to work hard. Santa expects nothing but the best. He is in charge of the naughty and nice lists, after all.

Rebekah Peters sitting with Santa Clause while working as an elf during the Christmas season.

Rebekah Peters sitting with Santa Clause while working as an elf during the Christmas season.

A day at Santa’s house begins with cleaning and preparing for a busy day of photography, selling said photos, and making as many parents and toddlers happy as possible. The day is filled with cleaning windows full of fingerprints, cleaning sticky messes from sugary candy cane hands, and ends by cleaning up the toy area and the hundreds of Legos scattered across the room.

Sometimes working for Santa is glamorous. His house is in an adorable Christmas Village at Alpenrose Dairy. Every day I go to work, I wear a cute outfit and it feels like I am in the middle of a Hallmark Christmas movie. I secretly wait for a cute boy to appear and steal my heart—because that’s the plot of every good Hallmark movie, right?

Other times, however, working for Santa means doing dirty work—sweeping, crawling around on my knees to pick everything up, and wiping up baby snot before snapping a photo.

That’s a pretty good reflection of my relationship with how I serve Christ. Sometimes serving Christ is glamorous, like when singing on a really “good” worship team. Other times serving Christ requires the dirty work. Both in working for Santa and serving Christ, I have found the dirty work is the most satisfying.

Each day, hundreds of children and families come to visit Santa to tell him what they want to see under the tree on Christmas morning. Some children ask for trains and dolls; other children ask for their parents to come back.

One girl in particular was visiting with her grandmother. When Santa asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she said that she wanted her mother to come back. Santa asked, “Where is your mom?” With a somber spirit, the little girl replied, “Living under a bridge, I think.”

While I don’t know the rest of her story, I do know this little girl simply wanted the warm embrace of her mother’s arms for Christmas. Why is it that I don’t actively seek after the warm embrace of my Father’s arms?

These children have also taught me a lot about what it means to have childlike faith. I remember one little boy looking up at Santa and exclaiming, “Christmas is Jesus’ birthday!” With joy, Santa shared that Jesus was the best gift God could have ever given us. We give presents to remember the love that God gave to us through the best gift ever. This was such a simple interaction but taught me a lot about the boldness I should have every day. Why don’t I run around exclaiming the truth of Jesus?

Working for Santa taught me to love like Jesus through the dirty work.

Working for Santa taught me to run to my Father’s arms every single day.

Working for Santa taught me to be emphatic about my love for Jesus.

Working for Santa taught me more about Jesus than I could have learned in Sunday school.

A better understanding of Christ is not something I would ever ask for from Santa. But I didn’t need to ask. Life as an elf gave me that understanding without me even realizing it.