My Secret Angel and Me: Christian Children’s Book Pairs Jesus With Santa
BY MELANIE COUGHLIN
Special to The Pilot
Many parents of young children love “The Elf on the Shelf” tradition.
An elf doll placed in the home encourages children to behave because, the companion book says, the elf flies back to the North Pole every night to report to Santa Claus whether children have been naughty or nice.
Despite its popularity, Christian parents struggle with the tradition. There is no mention of Jesus, and the story focuses on Santa as an entity who rewards or condemns behavior.
Former Southern Pines resident Rachel Hernandez has answered those concerns with her own book and doll set, “My Secret Angel and Me.”
“People call this the Christian ‘elf on the shelf.’ The difference is our angel answers to God,” says Hernandez, who now lives in Atlanta.
The book, written by Hernandez and illustrated by her sister-in-law Ashley Adorno, tells the story of Jesus’ birth from the perspective of a child’s secret angel.
Hernandez incorporates Santa into the story, writing on one page: “Santa thinks of Jesus as he piles presents on his sleigh. Before he leaves the North Pole, he gets on his knees to pray … God is the one who tells Santa what to do.”
This integration of Santa and Jesus was key to Hernandez’s concept. She and Adorno grew up believing in Santa but saw the jolly bringer of gifts in a new light when they became parents themselves.
“Our children were obsessed with Santa, and as Christian parents, we thought, ‘What are we doing to our children?’” says Hernandez, mother of 5-year-old Bella Rose. “It’s almost like you can’t compete with Santa.”
Hernandez and Adorno were together two Christmases years ago when the idea for a book struck them. The two talked late into the night about how to convey to children that Jesus is the focus during Christmas. Yet, Hernandez says she felt conflicted about writing a Christmas book that left out any mention of Santa.
“As Christians, we can’t pretend Santa doesn’t exist,” Hernandez says. “All of a sudden, I got this visceral image of him (Santa) praying and acknowledging there’s not a gift on his sleigh that can even compare with God’s love. It felt like God was saying that Santa is the way to get to the children.”
Hernandez, a former television reporter, was pursuing her master’s degree at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta at the time. Her goal of being a Christian writer is what motivated her to go to seminary; she wanted to learn to articulate God’s word. As the only woman in her program — and a high-fashion woman at that — Hernandez sometimes felt a little out of place.
“I walked into seminary, and it was like ‘Legally Blonde.’ I walked in with my rhinestone Bible cover and rhinestone flip-flops,” she recalls. “But I am who I am. I love God just as much as anyone else, and just because you love God doesn’t mean you have to wear a wool skirt to your ankles.”
Hernandez’s attention to aesthetics shows in the book set. Packaged in a sturdy box with magnetic closure and whimsical art, the hardcover book rests next to an 11-inch angel, whose hands are clasped in prayer. The set is intended and manufactured for many years of use.
“At the end of the day, it’s got to be gorgeous,” Hernandez says of the book she self-published under the name For the King Press.
Sales have exceeded Hernandez’s expectations. She and Adorno promoted the book through personal calls, door-to-door visits to boutiques and their website. Enough stores, 15 to date, bought the book that Hernandez had to stop online sales.
Hernandez calls the quantity of sales “insane” but remains humble.
“I’m just in awe and humbled. We didn’t do this. God is our CEO, so he’s doing this,” she says. “He put the words in my heart, and he guided her (Adorno’s) brush.”
Hernandez is not finished. With her husband, Pete’s, Cuban roots in mind, she plans to republish “My Secret Angel and Me” in Spanish. Next up is a book about Easter.
“Watch out, Easter Bunny. Here comes Jesus,” she says, and the sound of determination in Hernandez’s voice conveys she is up to the challenge.
The “My Secret Angel and Me” book set is $29.95 and may be bought locally at Denker Dry Goods in Southern Pines and Cameron and Co. in Pinehurst. Visit the website www.mysecretangel andme.com for more
Melanie Coughlin is a local freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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