There is so much about this time of the year that inspires my faith, challenges my status quo, and causes me to think “outside of the box.” Not least among these soul-searching prompts are The Grandchildren – a.k.a. David and Beks.
At six and four respectively, they are at that wonderful age where they are captivated by storytelling. They can tell the difference between make-believe and real-life, and they love both. Christmas brings it all together for them, with that marvelous balance between fun, fantasy, fable, and deep truth. They know intuitively that the Jesus story is real, and then they relish the fun they can have with Santa, flying reindeer, talking snow-people, and elves.
So Sunday afternoon, when we were visiting in Richmond, Rebekah let slip to the children that she’d been in contact with a coniving “bad-attitude” elf. Apparently, this elf had been stalking her, leaving vaguely threatening notes, making harassing phone calls, and generally trying to cause trouble in Maul-Hall. She told them all this just before I came up into the apartment.
I was met at the door with questions:
- “Grandaddy, what are you going to do about that elf?“
- “Is it true what Grandmama said about a mean elf sneaking into your house?“
- “Are you going to write a letter back and tell that elf to stop it?”
They knew it was a made-up story… but at the same time they wanted to know more, they wanted the story to go on, they wanted to see what I would say – they wanted to be sure.
Fortunately, I know Rebekah well enough to be able to jump right in.
“Get me some paper and a pen,” I said. “I’m going to show you what that nasty elf looks like, then I’m going to write him a note and tell him off!”
So David and Beks gathered around me on the sofa, watching every stroke of my pen, continually asking questions, prodding for clues as to how I planned to respond. We were due to leave in just a few minutes so I had to be quick. This is what I came up with.
Dear Mr. Elf. First, you are elf-ish. You only think of your-elf. So… listen up, bub… Stay away from Rebekah… or elf!! That’s all I’m going to say… Me.
Well, I don’t quite understand, but somehow this little sketch and letter tickled a nerve with the children. They were completely captivated. David read the letter out loud, over and over (he loves to practice sight words), and he chuckled every time it came to the line, “listen up, bub…”
“I love that word, ‘bub’, grandaddy,” he said. “It sounds so silly.”
It looks like there is going to have to be more from Mr. Elf when they show up Christmas Eve. He may even have to organize some shenanigans. There could even be a scuffle.
The Real Story:
Then I think of the way David and Beks look at the manger scene, the nativity under the tree, and how entranced they are by the Jesus story. And I struggle to logically understand how it is that they can know the Greatest Story Ever Told so well – but they do, and why it resonates with their deeper sense of believing – it absolutely does, and how on earth they can be so comfortable with the concept of The Incarnation, of God with us, of God with them – yet they are.
Maybe it really is true that the younger children are, the closer they are to remembering – that they have a history with God (that we all have a history), a story we easily forget in this terrestrial plane, and that so much of faith is really about remembering…
I truly do not know; but I do know that the mystery becomes more real the farther into God that I go, the more a part of the Jesus story I become, and the more miles and days and years along the pathway I journey. And I wonder.
And still I learn – DEREK