So it’s Christmas Eve.
The wait is almost over.
Either we are now prepared, or we have tossed the idea of preparation. Either way, it is time to settle into mystery. It is time to follow a star, head over to Bethlehem and join a bunch of other stragglers around a manger.
What will greet us there?
In C.S. Lewis’ the Chronicles of Narnia, four children who find their way into a wondrous land through the back of a magical wardrobe in their uncle’s house. It is called Narnia and it is a kingdom where animals talk and where Kings and Queens govern from tower-filled castles. When the children first enter this land they discover that it is under the control of the wicked White Witch who rules with an iron fist and a cold heart. As the story unfolds, one of the children, Lucy, meets a faun named Mr. Tumnus. He describes the White Witch to Lucy by saying, “Why it is she that has got all of Narnia under her thumb. It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter and…NEVER CHRISTMAS; think of that!” …always winter….and never Christmas…”
Sound dismal? These past few days of only 3 hours of light and -41 temperatures make ‘always winter’ a scary thought for me to imagine! Life like one long winter of cold, snow-covered ground, trees with leaf-less branches, constantly clouded skies…. with no Christmas…. nothing to look forward to….
But at the manger tonight we are reminded that Life is NOT always “winter.” In The Chronicles of Narnia Jesus is represented by a huge lion named ASLAN. And at the beginning of the chronicles it is always winter in Narnia because ASLAN has not been seen in the land for generations. But when ASLAN comes (and He does….about a third of the way through the first book) Christmas comes and spring begins again. In this story C. S. Lewis reminds us why Christmas is so special. At this time of year we celebrate the truth that there is hope! As the lyrics to the old Christmas Carol say, “The HOPES and FEARS of all the years are met in THEE tonight!” We receive the gift of hope as we realize if this God-baby is here – anything is possible.
We marvel at the ordinary becoming holy and the holy becoming ordinary. We stand in awe before the mystery of a God that places glory in every existing thing! Shepherds, straw, myrrh, dung, dogs, donkeys all testifying to a God who is does not stay in the heavens but comes to the glorious muck. The signature of our Savior is that He comes into the mess. You can recognize Him because He will show up in the messiest place you can imagine. He chooses not to answer our prayers by lifting us out of the doubt and pain of our lives, but by coming right down into the middle of them.
We ponder the depths of God’s love affair with our world that produced this baby. A love affair that began at the beginning of human time, that is fully present today and that will reach through all our tomorrows. It’s made up mostly of our mistakes and His forgiveness. Our wanderings and His faithfulness. We think about this love-child and just how far God would go to be held in our arms. It is a love beyond reason. As it turns out, all the preparing and longing we have done during this Advent season was really just a taste. A taste of the longing and waiting that resides in the heart in the God Himself. A longing and waiting for us to follow His directions, bow before in worship, and pick Him up and hold Him in our arms even as He holds us in His.
So please linger at the manger tonight. Stand in wonder and gratitude and then let out a yell and do a dance (or at least let out a big smile!) as you realize that God has come near.