I cannot think of another year where I have needed advent more than this one. The promises advent brings: love, peace, hope, and joy, those have been hard to come by in a year marked by such great loss. Many have experienced loss in the form of jobs, major life events, normalcy, and loss of loved ones; it can all build up and make us think that despair is our permanent residence. But might there be a bigger narrative that we’ve been missing in the midst of the loss?
Around Christmas time each year, I am always reminded of the beloved story of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the story, the Pevensies have been evacuated from their London suburb during World War II. They find themselves in a large country home owned by a professor. While playing hide and seek one day, Lucy, the youngest of the four, discovers the magical land of Narnia by walking through the wardrobe in one of the professor’s spare rooms.
On Lucy’s first exploration in Narnia, she learns of the White Witch and her evil rule. The land has experienced a hundred years of winter at this point, and the people of Narnia are filled with despair. There is no hope, no peace, and no ounce of joy (sound familiar?) until Narnia learns of the Pevensie children.
Later when all four are in Narnia and are meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, one of their brothers, Edmond, slips away and is taken captive by the White Witch. Distraught, the other three have to escape with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, scared that they might never see their brother again. Lucy, Susan, Peter, and the Beavers begin a long journey towards help, trekking through icy terrain with the White Witch and her police on their trail ready to capture, kill, and prolong her reign.
Some time into their journey towards Aslan, the five hide thinking the White Witch had finally caught up to them when suddenly a large man approaches. Cheery, dressed in a red coat, with a large sleigh pulled by reindeer, Father Christmas arrives. He gives the three Pevensies gifts that will aid them in their battle against the darkness in Narnia. Father Christmas offers the first ounce of joy in a long journey towards the restoration of Aslan’s kingdom.
Much like the Pevensies, I have often felt like despair was on my trail this year. Everywhere I turned I saw heartbreak in our families, our churches, our nation. One too many times, I’ve gotten stuck in the haze, taking my eyes off the light. But as we near the end of the year and get closer to Christmas, I feel once again as joy is approaching.
For us, joy entered on a dark night in Bethlehem. In a place meant for animals, a son was born; Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, a prophecy fulfilled. This gift of God in human flesh allows for His creation to make a trade. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection gives all of us the opportunity to forever exchange life instead of death, gladness instead of mourning, joy instead of sorrow. And while that trade doesn’t promise that we will no longer experience loss on this side of Heaven, it does give us a permanent address of where to look to in the midst of hard seasons.
So if you too have found yourself in a place like my friends, the Narnians, in need of an exchange today, ask the Lord to give you His instead. And remember the words of this centuries-old hymn, O come, O come Emmanuel.
O come, Thou Day-Spring come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come!