For the past several years, a dear friend of mine, has asked me to be an elf, gather other elves, and help with Golden Christmas Festivities. This gig requires elf dancing (don’t ya know?) and hanging around with Santa at various functions including, but not limited to, parades. Okay, I hear all of you who know me saying, “Yeah, I can so see you as an elf.” Right, okay then.
But there are people who have said to me, “That is ridiculous and foolish. You are in your 60’s. You look silly dressed up in an elf costume and dancing around at Christmas Time.” Yes, I have actually had this happen. I also have been in dialogue with a few folks who share my Christian faith and believe anything secular to be in direct conflict with the “true” meaning of Christmas. But to such critics of elfish behavior I say, “Baa-humbug.” Here is why.
One Christmas, Santa invited his elves to help spread a little Christmas cheer with him at an event for homeless children and adults. The event was hosted by a church in Southeast Denver. During the evening, we met hundreds of people as they were served a home-cooked meal, in a warm building. For a few hours, on a cold December night, we were brought together to seek the bright light of hope, in a season that promises just that.
Our job, as elves, was to talk to each little kiddo, hand them a present, take photos with them if they wished, and then put them on Santa’s lap for a one-on-one request session. About an hour into the event I was granted opportunity to share a brief moment with a six-year-old child who gave my heart a gift, and shed light on a truth, this little elf will carry with her forever. How humbling it is be placed on a course where we believe ourselves to be the gift giver and then find we are, in fact, recipient of the gift.
The little fellow’s head was about up to my waist (not saying much as I stand 4’ 11”). He pulled one of the bells on my elf belt. When I looked at him, his big brown eyes twinkled, and he smiled without being embarrassed that his two front teeth were missing. He motioned for me to lean down so he could ask me a question. With great seriousness he asked, “Miss Elth, is Chrithmas for me too thith year?”
Oh, out of the mouths of babes will come the truth, if we will be still and listen. And I want to tell you something friends. Most of the time when kids ask a question, they already have the answer and are just waiting for us “grownup” types to figure stuff out.
“Yes, sweetest child,” I said as I mentally and emotionally staggered from the weight of his query. “Christmas is for everyone, and it is especially for you this year.”
His large eyes twinkled even brighter as he received the answer, nodded his head in understanding, and moved onto Santa’s lap. My eyes twinkled too. But my twinkling was from tears that come when the heart is stung by a question simple in presentation but pregnant with opportunity to contemplate the answer.
His mother came over and hugged me. “Thank you,” she said. Then she told me that for five years she and her two children had lived on the streets of Denver. In summer they slept under bridges. In winter they were housed overnight in shelters, when there was room for them. She had never gone beyond the 11th grade in education. At best, she was only able to find sporadic, temporary employment. Recently she passed her G.E.D., and had been accepted into a training program that she hoped would author a better life for her family. They had never been able to afford any kind of holiday celebration. This was really their first Christmas, ever, as a family. For her there now was hope of a new start. All things were being made new, and there was a light shining in their darkness as she was finding her faith restored, along with her hope.
I left the church with elf bells jingling and pointed green shoes plodding along in the parking lot. I was thanking God for His mercies and for that little family. And, as I contemplated His grace and greatness, I asked myself if I had ever really understood the true meaning of Christmas until then. Had I ever been witness to the hope offered to the hopeless? Had I ever been so close to seeing the newness of life and freshness of another chance? Had I truly ever understood what the gift really was in the unlikely form of a small child?
All the times I have celebrated in beautifully decorated churches, sung carols, opened presents, and eaten wonderful food, I have never felt the peace and joy I unwrapped as I answered the simple question of a young one who had been made wise by the streets but still retained a precious sense of wonder. I can honestly testify that in an old church, on a wintery Denver night, in the presence of a child angel who relied on a secular elf to answer a sacred question, I received the true gift of Christmas. And I understood that every year, in the hustle and bustle of the secular season, there is one question that must never go unanswered. Is the true promise of Christmas for me this year?
I say, yes, it is. For you. For me. And for us all.
Signed with love and new hope,
Captain of the Elves, Golden Colorado Branch
Copyright December, 2013
Lakewood, CO 80401