Noelle Kirchner, M.Div., is a Presbyterian minister and mother of two boys. As they wrestle on the floor, she enjoys wrestling with her manuscripts. She writes for Huff Post Parents, the TODAY Show Parenting Team, and has been a repeat guest author at in(courage). You can find her on her blog, where she writes about faith and parenting, and on Twitter and Facebook.
This year, we adopted our first Elf on the Shelf. While I'll admit I gravitate toward traditions that illuminate the true meaning of Christmas, my six-year-old was adorably relentless in his request.
It has been captivating to see him bolt out of bed every morning to find the elf. And our elf, "Joe" (after Joseph), has been busy at our house...
He has stolen chocolate from the pantry. We caught him red-handed.
He has mounted himself on a stuffed reindeer, posed as an ornament on the tree, and even...wrapped the toilet!
I love the playfulness the elf inspires as we all get swept up in the magic of Christmas. I don't want to deny my children the wonder I experienced as a child.
One day, however, my younger son was playing near the Elf on the Shelf and his hand accidentally touched his hat. He quickly reported it to his brother, who was almost in tears. The accompanying elf book clearly states that touching the elf will result in him losing his magic. The incident matriculated this unprompted, handwritten note:
Needless to say, the elf didn't lose his "magic." But it got me thinking about the special gift we have in Jesus.
The life of Jesus is one story that will never lose its magic. It has captivated hearts for centuries. The blood of Jesus can wash us clean and drive us unfettered into the arms of our Creator, who loves us desperately - and that's nothing short of miraculous. The truth of the Christmas story is more powerful that any tradition we can create, as it is the bedrock of the season - and our lives.
That's why while we engage in traditions that bring wonder and silliness into our house, we also gather to read the Christmas story from the Bible right after the tree has been decorated. We hear about what God has done to the glow of soft lights, grounding the tree in our Greatest Gift.
That's why as the children are busy with holiday crafts and concerts, I go into the classroom and share the Christian meaning of the season. I explain the legend of the candy cane. I read stories like Goodnight, Manger. I want to engage them in fresh ways around the age-old story.
My younger son performed in his last preschool Christmas pageant this year. He was a wiseman, and as he gathered around baby Jesus, his line was, "Isn't he wonderful?" When he first started practicing his line, his intonation was flat. We repeated it over and over in order to bring meaning and excitement to the word "wonderful." When the day of the pageant came, he said it perfectly. Even better, the audience believed it.
I wish each of you the joy, wonder, and true MAGIC of the season. Merry Christmas!
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like my article Reclaiming Christmas.