I grew up with an elf. He came and stayed for the month of December, moving around the house at night while I was sleeping, checking on my brother and me, making sure we were being nice and not naughty. He magically went back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve and reported to Santa.
And you know what? I wasn't scared for life. I didn't have trouble trusting my parents once I found out that the whole experience was basically a giant trick. And, wait for it, I didn't stop believing in Jesus when I discovered the truth that Santa--and his elfin minions--weren't real.
I was discerning enough to understand that while there wasn't really a big fat man in a red suit shimmying down chimneys in what can only be described as breaking and entering, there was a Creator because, logically, how else did we all get here? Call me smart like that but I'm fairly certain most kids have the ability to realize that there is a God-sized whole inside of them that Santa isn't designed to fill. We need God and He reveals Himself constantly to those who seek Him.
I have no problem with parents who don't do the Santa thing. None at all. We don't do the Easter bunny. And before you go calling me a hypocrite for pretending to believe in Santa but not the rabbit let me explain my reasoning. St. Nicholas was a real life dude. He delivered gifts to kids at Christmas. We can tell our children about the truth of the person of St. Nick. The bunny has absolutely nothing to do with Easter. (Although, I certainly don't have a problem with other families having a bunny leave eggs at their houses.) I understand not telling your kids about Santa because I absolutely believe in doing whatever it takes to make sure the children understand the true and only real reason for Christmas.
But we do Santa here. (Always, always, first making sure that our children are being trained up to know that Jesus, in a manger, in Bethlehem is the only thing that really matters.)
And we do the elf thing.
Our elves showed up on the porch on the 1st of December. We have two because I want to be able to send one with each boy when they grow up and have children of their own.
My boys absolutely think these things are alive and well and reporting to Santa. Nevermind their lack of hands and feet. Nevermind their ridiculous flannel outfits. Nevermind the frozen expressions that never change. Booker and Finn are alive with the magic of Christmas.
And they have been up to no good. They've been found eating cookies and candies. They've confiscated Garrett's pirate boats and been found doing battle. They've been caught sleeping (with their eyes open, of course) in the bathroom, in a basket, tucked in under a hand towel. They are now suspended in a small toy food basket, from the light fixture in the kitchen.
Sometimes the oldest tells the youngest, "Be good, the elves are watching." I always follow this with, You should be good all the time because Jesus is always watching.
He swears he's seen them move.
And I remember that. I remember not even believing in Santa anymore but being just certain that the elves had blinked or nodded their heads. They're not real. I would tell myself. They can't move. Still, a part of me held onto that crisp excitement that there was the smallest of chances they just might.
One year, I crept up to the elf, knowing that it wasn't real, and touched it. I remember thinking, Huh. I guess it really is fake. He's made of plastic. But this was at least a few years after I stopped believing in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.
I never stopped believing in Jesus.
I hope that my children understand that some things we do to experience the pure joy of childlike Christmas fun but that God and His Son reign forever. I hope that they appreciate the excitement we had in watching the delight on their faces every morning upon discovering their elves.