By Mother Rebecca
“The White Witch? Who is she?”
“Why, it is she that has got all Narnia under her thumb. It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!”
– C. S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
When I was ten years old, my mother’s mother, a middle-school English teacher, gave me a boxed set of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia for Christmas. An avid reader, I eagerly slid the book marked “1” from the box and began reading. Instantly, I was enveloped in another world where the battle between good and evil depended upon four children whose ages ranged right around my own. I finished the book in two days, feeling that I really knew Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy Pevensie. I wanted to be just like them. I read on and finished Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. When I opened the Silver Chair, though, I soon found the Pevensie children absent from the story. Disappointed that my heroes had disappeared, I returned the book to the box and placed it on my bookshelf. It’s something of a miracle that 30 years and eight moves later, while I was in seminary, my little box of mass-market paperback books with yellowed pages was still on my bookshelf, waiting to be read. I dusted them off, began anew, and fell back in love with this remarkable series.
Reflecting on the connections between Lewis’ classic story and the season of Advent, The Rev. Heidi Haverkamp has written a book entitled, Advent in Narnia. Her book is a collection of daily meditations to be read throughout the season. I commend it to you. In her introduction, Mtr. Haverkamp captures beautifully the feelings I experienced when, in my 40s, I returned to Lewis’ stories. She writes:
Too often, Christianity may seem to be a known quantity. We can take its radical values for granted and see Jesus as a cliché instead of our Savior. Lewis, by placing Christianity into another world, makes it unfamiliar again. He gives us the chance to feel a newfound wonder at the depth of God’s love, the power of Christ’s grace and the totality of his sacrifice, and the wonder of a world infused with the Holy Spirit. We all can use a spiritual wake-up call like this, whether we aren’t sure Christianity can mean anything to us or whether it means everything.
Yes, we can all use a spiritual wake-up call. This is why we will spend Advent in Narnia this year. Because in this beloved story of four children caught up in the struggle of light overcoming darkness, of spring overcoming winter, Lewis offers us a “world in which the profoundest physical enjoyment is one of the best and clearest images of what it is to meet God.”
Last year, many of you had an opportunity to spend Advent with Ebenezer. For four Sundays before Christmas, we read Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, teasing from the text various historical, cultural, theological, and playful understandings. That experience of reading a text closely in community and sharing our thoughts, forming connections, and enriching our collective experience brought a sense of anticipation and joy during the darkest weeks of a year in which so many had been quarantined behind closed doors. When the series concluded last year, staff and congregation alike exclaimed, “Let’s do that again!”
And so we shall. This Sunday when you arrive at church, we invite you to step through the Wardrobe in the Spare Room (a/k/a Roper Hall) to participate in our annual Advent Family Festival. Allison Blalock and a team of volunteers have prepared tasty treats, a variety of projects that will prepare your hearts and homes for Advent, and a few surprises. Trust me: you do not want to miss it.
In the weeks that follow, we’ll read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe together. Adult formation during December will take place in Roper Hall and over Zoom. Fr. Casey and I again will be joined by Professors Roy Heller and Robert Patten. On December 5, we will welcome Mtr. Haverkamp to the panel to help kick-start our spiritual wake-up call. You can purchase a copy of Mtr. Haverkamp’s book and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe in our bookstore. Be sure to read Chapters 1-5 of The Lion before arriving for class on Sunday, December 5.
See you soon, Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve!