Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life? (Mary Oliver)
Our three and a half year old granddaughter was in line recently to buy tickets to a movie. Behind them was a teen age “gothic” girl, dressed in black, with chains and spiked hairs and rings everywhere imaginable – and a few not imaginable I guess!
Anabel was fascinated. After staring at her a while she went up to her and asked
“Do you have a life?”!
The girl was too stunned I think to answer! But the question is a good one for you and me today: do we have a life?
Does Christmas have a life for us, beyond the decorations, the parties, the eating and drinking, the gifts under the tree?
Do we know the life Jesus said he came to offer: “I came that you might have life in all its fullness” ?
Do we have that life?
Today I want to offer you three gifts that that fullness of life brings:
the gift of longing
the gift of wonder
the gift of trust
And these gifts shine out this year in the movie that’s now playing: Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Christmas our Kevin (Anabel’s father) was nine, someone gave him a set of C. S. Lewis’ Narnia books. Kevin read each of the seven at least half a dozen times and he also got his daddy hooked. For over two years we read Narnia together.
If you haven’t seen the movie, do! It is wonderful! And if you haven’t read the books then buy them, borrow them, steal them (well, perhaps not steal unless you feel called to start a jail ministry) and then take or borrow a child or a grandchild and read them together! You’ll be glad you did!
Someone asked the other day on NPR what age a child should be to read these books. My answer: you can’t be too young or too old if you can read! The Chronicles of Narnia are not just “children’s” literature. They’re for children of all ages … about the search for another world … and life in all its fullness!
Kevin and I started with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and were soon fascinated by the land of Narnia and the powerful and mysterious Aslan.
Four children – Lucy, Susan, Peter, and Edmund – are evacuated from London during the blitz. They are sent to a large, mysterious country house where an old professor lives with his housekeeper. One rainy English day, bored with their usual books and games, they play hide and seek. Lucy hides in a huge wardrobe in a large back bedroom, and as she retreats through the clothes finds herself standing in something cold and wet: snow! She is in another land!
The mystical land that Lucy and the other children enter is Narnia. It has been bewitched by the White Queen, so that it is “always winter but never Christmas.” But it is rumored that a wonderful being named Aslan is coming to change everything. As the sense of Aslan’s arrival increased, the land begins to brighten and the snow melts.
And as the spell of the witch begins to break,Father Christmas is able to return to the land of Narnia, and he gives three of the children gifts for the roles they are to play:
Lucy is the Healer: she gets a vial of healing oil
Susan is the Warrior: she gets a bow and arrows
Peter is the King: he gets a sword
So today I want to play the part of Father Christmas and offer three gifts of Christmas -you – gifts for life!
The Gift of Longing – and Joy
In Narnia the children are suddenly taken into another world … they discover there is
more to life than they dreamed of.
It’s like C. S. Lewis himself. For many years he was an atheist. Then as he wrote he was “surprised by joy”, as he came to believe, and realized that God had been seeking for him all his life! In the joy of his discovery of Christian faith he wrote:
“If nothing in this world satisfies, it must be we are made for another world.”
So often the things we most wish for – success, fun, a perfect Christmas or a perfect family – leave us with a sense of longings unfulfilled, wondering why we aren’t really happy!
If we listen to our hearts we may be like the Magi who followed the star until it stopped over the place where Jesus was born. And when they found him they were overjoyed!
May you, like Lewis and the children, be surprised this Christmas by joy!
The Gift of Wonder – and Awe
Wonder came to these children on the day they came face-to-face with Aslan. To their amazement he is a huge, golden lion. He looks both “good and terrible.” In Aslan’s presence, the grip of winter breaks and the land of Narnia begins to come alive again. Wonder is born in them!
Dag Hammarskjold, former secretary general of the UN wrote in his personal journal that “God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.” Dag Hammarskjold in Markings.
I hope this Christmas you will take time to stop and look at the wonders all around – of the discoveries of science, of the beauties of nature and art, of life itself, of human love and most of all of being loved by a God who would send his Son to rescue us from our waywardness, and bring life in all its fullness.
How does wonder come? In many ways, and usually without warning! But wonder is a kind of “deference”, the discovery that “at the heart of the universe it’s not about me, but it’s about something bigger, something greater” (Chris Kim).
The Gift of Trust – and Courage
After his conquest of the White Queen near the end of the book, Aslan gives a terrible roar and tells the children they have to go on a long journey with him. Climbing on his golden back, they grab his tawny mane and he shoots off faster than the faster horse.
What a ride it must have been! As C. S. Lewis describes it, “Have you ever had a gallop on a horse? Think of that … then imagine instead … the soft roughness of the golden fur, and the mane flying back in the wind … twice as fast as the fastest race horse … a mount that never grows tired … He rushes on and on …”
Imagine what trust and courage for the children to get on the great lion Aslan and ride his back!
I love the line in which one of the children whispers: “Is he safe?” And the answer comes: “Safe? No, but he is good!”
Lewis believed that of all virtues courage is the virtue above all. And that courage comes from trust …. not being naïve .. but trusting that God may not be safe but he is good! And that he gives us courage in the face of “the white witch” – courage to do what is right and fight what is wrong.
Is he safe? No, but he is good!
My Christmas wish for you is that you receive these gifts
longing – that leads you to find great joy of knowing the God who made you
wonder – that makes you realize you are not the center of the universe, but that
God loves all of us and each of us as if we were the only one!
trust – that produces courage to be all you are made to be
Do you have a life?
take time to stop – to listen to the deepest longing of your heart
take time to look – and to be amazed at the wonder of being loved unconditionally
take time to pray – for trust and courage to ride on Aslan’s back
And you will have a life in all its fullness that lasts through Christmas and beyond!