Kids - at least my kids - just can’t seem to do certain things.
They can’t turn off a flashlight before setting it down. They can’t put their shoes in the same place twice. And they can’t forget even the slightest promise I make.
“But you said!” they remind me.
This time of year, I’m reminded of another thing kids can’t do: they can’t not believe.
Since the world is bigger than they, kids assume there’s a world beyond them. Hence, the magic of Christmas.
A few years ago, we introduced our gang to The Elf on the Shelf. It was actually the Spanish version, Una Tradición Navideña. Bed, Bath & Beyond was out of the English version. The language barrier wasn’t a problem. The kids got the point.
For those farther behind than I, “The Elf on the Shelf” is a book that came out in 2005. It comes with an accompanying elf doll. Once you read the book, the elf appears in a different corner of the house each day to help Santa keep an eye on things.
Technically speaking, the elf flies to the North Pole each night and returns to a different place in the house the following morning. It’s fun to explore the house looking for where it landed.
Our elf is a female named Valeria. She has shown up in glass cabinets, on ledges, in stockings and on Christmas tree branches. Once, she appeared on a ceiling fan blade that got accidentally turned on.
We carefully wrapped the fallen elf in a towel and repositioned her in a stable place at a lower elevation.
You’re not supposed to touch Valeria. If you do, The Elf on the Shelf website gives recommendations to help your elf get its magic back: write an apology, sprinkle cinnamon or sing a carol with your family.
The website also explains what might have happened if your elf returns from its overnight trip to the North Pole and lands in the same place it landed the day before:
1. It’s the elf’s favorite spot.
2. The spot has a great view.
3. The elf is preparing for a really special surprise the next day.
4. The elf ate too many cookies at the North Pole and was too tired to move.
5. The elf did move - work on your observation skills!
The web site makes no mention of a correlation to a parent’s exhaustion level.
No matter the peculiarity of Valeria’s movements, or lack thereof, my kids are still convinced of her magical powers. I can’t make them not believe any more than a grungy mall Santa can make them not believe.
This phrase captures a child’s resilience to doubt, “All things are possible for him who believes.”
In hearing the Christmas story again this year, I was struck by another angle of the impossible made possible.
There were actually two miraculous births: Jesus, born to a virgin, and John, born to a barren woman.
Whether we’re before our prime and scared, or past our prime and sad, the message is the same: God is in the impossible. Believe!