THE LAND BEYOND THE LAMPOST
Pastor Jim prepared this sermon for Christmas Eve, 2005. He presented this at the 5:30 and 7:30 worship services at Resurrection.
Many of our children have seen the movie “Narnia”. It is my hope that every one of us here will soon see how fine a movie this really is, for folks of all ages.
I am standing by a lamppost. It is the first thing Lucy sees when she enters the Land of Narnia, a land where it has been winter for 100 years, and the lamppost becomes for her the recognizable beacon or light that shows her which way to go, and is always the key to finding her way home. We Christians will right away remember that Jesus said “I am the light of the world.”
In our first Bible reading tonight from the prophet, Isaiah, we heard about the story of people who walked in darkness and then God sent them a great light. And this great light meant that the people lived again in peace and treated each other with justice and righteousness. This was the vision God granted to Isaiah 800 years before the birth of Jesus. We believe that Jesus is this promised light for the entire world.
If you know nothing about C.S. Lewis and “Narnia,” you are going to be amazed. Lewis was a middle-aged bachelor when he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia for children. He was a professor at Oxford and wrote many serious books about literature and Christianity. During World War II, he had a well-known radio program that answered theological questions for adults. But then he did something that changed his perspective. During World War II, lots of children were evacuated from London because of the air raids and Lewis brought a group of children into his own home for safety. It was for these children that he started creating the stories that eventually became “The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe” and the “Chronicles of Narnia.”
Lewis said you could hear the stories on many levels. You could see Christian symbols and figures, or you could just enjoy a good story. After his stories were published and became popular, Lewis reflected on his literary style. “I chose to use the fairy tale as my way of sharing truth. I was aiming for the feelings, not so much for the mind.
There is a Lion in this story. His name is Aslan (which is Turkish for “lion”). Lewis well knew that if we can “feel” what Aslan went through, we would better understand what Jesus did for us.
“Narnia” is especially beautiful in its portrayal of the children’s relationship to Aslan. Lewis provides images that “feel” like the Christians exchange of love with Jesus. Aslan breathes on the children to give them courage; he roars when the White Witch suggests he might not keep his word, for he is fearsome as well as loving. He meekly goes to his death.
In the Land of Narnia, there is snow everywhere, and it is always night. The evil witch is in control. They have not celebrated Christmas for 100 years. And then, the children in the story meet up with Father Christmas. He has a white beard and red outfit and is driving a sleigh. When one of the children says “But I thought that Christmas hasn’t been celebrated for 100 years,” he responds, “but now there is hope again and that will mean that soon we will be able to celebrate Christmas again.”
After you come to appreciate “Narnia,” please remember a bit about the man who wrote this story. He was born Clive Staples Lewis, to a Christian mother and father, but she died when he was just 9 years old. Her death took the major spiritual influence out of his life. His father was such a strict orthodox Anglican that Clive flat out rejected Christianity for the next 20 years. He writes about coming home for a Christmas visit with his father and his brother. For old times sake they decided to go to Christmas Eve Worship. Lewis wrote that he took communion though it meant nothing to him and they went home and sat around with nothing to say to each other.
How different that image is from what happened to him in his early 30’s. He wrote that in 1929 “I gave in and admitted that God was God and I knelt down and prayed.” But he still wasn’t sure about Jesus. Then in 1931 he came to realize the reality of the incarnation (that God became a human). He came to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
C.S. Lewis writes about “hearts in training.” If he were here tonight, I know that he would want to say something to parents of young children. “Parents, teach your children God’s truth in the stories you share with them and in the example you set. Be selective. Not every book and movie has values that you want to impart. Your children want to understand the noble concepts of right living, of treating others fairly, of standing up for what we believe, of knowing right from wrong. You nurture the hearts of your children so that when they hear the stories from the Bible, they will be ready to learn and to know that it is God who sets the standards for us, His people.
In one of his last letters to a young correspondent (a fifth grader), written less than a month before he died, C.S. Lewis wrote these words, words that speak poignantly to each of us, both child and adult – no matter what our actual age is: “If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much can go wrong with you, and I hope you may always do so.”
Tonight, children of all ages, let this lamppost remind us that our God does provide His Light for the darkness of this world.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being that Light. Amen.