“Always winter, but never Christmas.”
This summary of the of the condition of Narnia under the reign of the White Witch from the classic children’s novel, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, sums up my sentiments about this year.
You don’t have to be a literature buff to identify with the description given by the lovable Mr. Tumnus. This year has felt like a long, dreary, dark winter with no end in sight. We’ve endured quarantines, lock downs, zoom calls and classes, toilet paper shortages, civil unrest, racial tension, and chaotic elections (and results!). Many of us remain uncertain of what the future holds…Will we ever watch a movie in a theater again? Will we always have to wear masks? Will my job remain secure? Will my business survive? Will my friendships survive? Will my marriage survive?
Now it’s Christmas and surely the decking of the halls, the singing of the carols, and the wrapping of the gifts will bring the joy and peace we’ve longed for these last nine months. Won’t these familiar traditions bring us peace on earth? Well, no. Not really. The decorations have been hung but no guests are arriving. The cookies have been baked but no exchanges are happening. The gifts have been ordered and shipped but won’t be delivered in person. Christmas movies have been watched but the pageants and cantatas have been cancelled. Winter is definitely here but it certainly doesn’t feel like Christmas.
What did the Narnians do in their state of hopelessness? They defeated the White Witch and escaped the eternal winter with a little help of course. That help came from the Pevensie children, of course. But the true victory rested in the great lion, Aslan.
Holding on to Hope
After a long season of fear, darkness, and hopelessness, many Narnians had all but given up. However, some faithful creatures still clung to the hope that the ancient prophecy would one day be fulfilled: “Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, at the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, when he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
The Baby Jesus made His entrance that first Christmas into a similar setting–a world filled with darkness and dread. After living under ferocious, tyrannical rulers for centuries with no assistance from their God, many of the Israelites (God’s chosen people) wallowed aimlessly in their hopelessness. However, a faithful remnant remained, holding tightly to prophecies yet to be fulfilled: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
In our moments of deepest darkness, we are left with a choice: will we wallow in our grief or will we hold tightly to what we know to be true? When our world seems darkest, we must remind ourselves of Truth: God is faithful to His Word, every single time. It doesn’t matter what our circumstances might be; it doesn’t matter what our emotions might scream. God remains faithful, and if He hasn’t fulfilled His promise yet, you can count on the fact that He will. In His time.
Like the children of God, the beloved creatures of Narnia saw their prophecies fulfilled. Aslan did show up. But he didn’t just make an entrance, he drew close. Aslan–the great lion, commander of the Narnian army, and ruler of worlds–came so gently, so intimately near in the very moment when they needed him most. On a dreary, winter morning when all appeared to be lost, Aslan “stooped his golden head and licked [Lucy’s] forehead.” He was close enough that the young girl could feel the warmth of his breath and inhale the soothing aroma of his mane.
That scene perfectly portrays the miracle of Christmas. God–the very Creator of the universe, Name above all names, and Commander of the Angel Armies–stoops so low He actually clothes himself in human form and shows up as a baby born into a filthy world in a humble manger. “The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7:14). The One and only God…with us. He not only came to save mankind, but He literally walked among us and “faced all of the same testings we do” (Hebrews 4:15).
God still comes near to His people in their greatest time of need. God, so powerful He can speak the universe into existence, yet so personal He longs to draw close to you and hold you in the midst of your deepest pain. At the end of this difficult year, perhaps the most difficult of your life, God is wanting to lean in and draw close to you. Do you feel the warmth of His breath? Can you sense the aroma of His presence?
This year Christmas does not feel normal, but searching for the peace and joy of the season in the regular routines and rituals of the holiday will only leave you empty. True joy and peace are only found when we make the time to draw close to that Baby in the manger.
In Narnia, it was the arrival of Father Christmas that began to thaw the icy winter of the White Witch. While the mere presence of lights, decorations, and gifts won’t deliver the joy we desperately long for or the peace we crave at the end of this crazy year, it can be a turning point. It can remind us to draw close to Emmanuel, God with us, our source of hope. Then we will find joy unspeakable for today, hope unceasing for tomorrow, and peace that passes all of our understanding.
In the words of Father Christmas…
“Merry Christmas! Long live the true King!”