To my fellow Narnians: On Advent
Dearest Friends of Narnia,
I hope this letter finds you well as we approach the celebration of Advent, with its ultimate goal of celebrating the birth of our Saviour. It is truly a joyous time of year, made all the more joyous by its juxtaposition with the darkness of midwinter. In truth, I come close to saying the calendar accuracy is less important here than the spiritual significance. Christ does not come to us in the bright summer of our soul’s celebration, but in the bleak midwinter of our need. Of course, that might require celebrating again in June in Argentina, so my apologies for the Northern Hemisphere-mindedness on the issue.
I write to you of a concern which I am so certain you share as to call it our mutual concern. It is of the rising cultural expectation that this is the “holiday” season, or the “winter festival” or even that it is “Christmas” that is celebrated by retail, logistics, and elves. These expectations are typically paired with a downgrading of the observance of the Incarnation, and often abetted by the high-minded theologian who wishes to quibble about the exact date upon which the blessed event occurred. Our mutual concern has often been that we are not able to celebrate, as Free Narnians ought, the Incarnation of the Lord. We have been troubled that the great heritage of feasting, celebration, and song is being muted and overridden by Jingle Bells and balanced presentation.
Now, typically, I might urge that we take inspiration from the band that fought off Rabadash or held back the treachery of Nikabrik and Miraz, polish our swords and fight. By the Lion’s Mane, I do not doubt that we would be victorious if it were put to the question of battle. Failure could only befall us if we were false to one another, or if Aslan Himself was not with us.
I have been reflecting, though, on the state of those who disregard Christmas as the celebration of Christ and the Incarnation. It is of this I wish to speak, for we know of a time in Narnia that mirrors our modern age.
In the time of the White Witch, before the coming of the High King Peter, King Edmund, Queen Susan, and Queen Lucy, there was a curse upon our beloved land of Narnia. We often consider the Witch’s power to turn her enemies to stone, or her corruption of King Edmund, or even her addictive Turkish Delight. We consider the curse of the Hundred Years’ Winter, but we have forgotten the second half of that curse: that it was always winter, but never Christmas.
I am deeply indebted to fellow Narnian Joe Rigney for highlighting this aspect of the curse. Winter is a normal part of life, except for you who live in certain climates, but those areas bring certain challenges due to the persistent warmth. Winter can be a time of cleansing and resting, waiting for the newness of Spring, and being trapped in Winter would be devastating.
Yet we know one thing worse than being trapped in Winter, and that is being trapped in a winter with no Christmas. A Winter with no hope, no light, no warmth of celebration. This is Winter marked only by snows and bills, work and worry, obligations and troubles.
It is the Witch’s curse, that curse which sought to undo the good land of Narnia, to suffer through Winter without hope. And rather than see those who see Winter without Christmas as our enemies, I would suggest that we begin this season of Advent realizing what is truly the case:
Those who suffer Winter without Christmas are victims of the Witch’s Curse.
They are not to be fought but to be liberated. We know that now, as then, there are the odd minotaurs and hags who fight on the side of the curse, but many more innocent of treachery and only practice what they have always known. Others fear the evident evil more than embrace an elder hope. Yet know this, fellow Narnians, none of these are our enemies.
Rather, let us, as we best can, be emissaries of hope in the frozen wasteland of lives. Let us drink the cups of joy and gladness in the midst of the snow. Let us take our tea, and offer a cup, raised even to the health of our true adversaries, remembering a courageous squirrel who once did the same.
Let us not forget the true celebration, the joy that Father Christmas reminds us of as he brings the news that He is on the move! Let us celebrate, and encourage those about us, held captive by the Witch, to see the thaw that is coming, and with it, the fullness of hope.
In the name of One True King, bring rejoicing to the cursed lands, and let the Winter be filled with Hope!