The War on Joy.

I love C.S. Lewis. He isn’t perfect. He had a few ideas that were a bit much for protestant me. Overall he was a genius. What made him so brilliant is his ability to take the complex and translate it into words and ideas that others could understand and repeat. When you really understand something, you move beyond the jargon, take the idea apart, and remove the unnecessary, so the truly important can shine through with greater clarity.

I love the Narnian Novels by Lewis. They are brilliant. They have so many themes within his other books and are completely relevant for our world today, almost 70 years later. Lewis fought in World War I and wrote this book only a few years after the end of World War II. He was painfully aware of fighting in the middle of winter without the ability to celebrate Christmas. When Lewis penned one of his most famous lines, he summed up how the world’s enduring suffering faced during the second world war with one line. “It’s always winter, never Christmas.”

This past year has felt like it is always winter, never Christmas. It feels as though there has been a spell put on the world that has frozen hearts, frozen dreams, and is desiring to freeze our joy. There is a war we are facing in our world today, and it is a war on Joy. True Joy everlasting Joy.

 The Weather

One of the central themes of the life of C.S. Lewis was that of joy. His autobiography is entitled “Surprised by Joy” He had much to say about Joy. It was the hope of what was to come for him and the real enjoyment that comes from understanding we have been forgiven. The Pevensie kids understood this in the gifts they were given. “All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still “about to be.” -C.S. Lewis (Interestingly, his wife’s name was also Joy).

The contrast between the Witch and Aslan at this point is one of the central themes of the first Narnian book. A key scene occurs in Chapter 11 when the Witch and Edmund are traveling through the woods in pursuit of the beavers and the other children. They happen upon “a merry party” made up of a squirrel family, two satyrs, a fox, and a Dwarf, seated at a table and enjoying a delicious holiday meal. The Witch is incensed and demands to know, “What is the meaning of all this gluttony, this waste, this self-indulgence?” When she discovers that the meal was a gift from Father Christmas, she turns the entire party into stone. The benefit of the scene is that it demonstrates that the Witch’s evil is not fundamentally about winter and cold weather, but about a deep-seated hostility to life, joy, and celebration.

Joe Rigney

The witch wanted nothing more than to see winter forever. Like Rigney says, her desire wasn’t about cold and winter. It was a deep hatred of joy of celebration of the newness of life. This wasn’t just about cold weather. It represented her hatred of joy the forward-looking hope even in winter. Which is why she made it always winter and never Christmas. 

Just Show Up

What to do when someone you know is hurting

One of the expectations of being a pastor is that you always know what to say, when to say it and how it should be said. The is even more true when the person who you are ministering to is hurting. In nearly 20 years of pastoral ministry to the same church family I have learned that when someone is hurting all they need is for you to “Just show up.”

When I was younger I would avoid painful situations and people who were hurting because I was so afraid of saying the wrong thing. I was afraid what I would say would only push them further into despair. The older I got, and the more people I went to see, the more I realized how wrong I was.  I was reminded of the power of showing up when I asked one of the kids who grew up in our churches kids ministry what he remembered most about kids church when he was younger. I would have guessed he would say “the fun events” or “the powerful services.” You know what he said? “You came to see me in the hospital and gave me a video game when I got my tonsils out.” He didn’t remember what I said, he remembered that I showed up. I didn’t even remember doing that, and the video game I got him was a soccer video game – he played baseball. I didn’t do or say everything just right but I showed up.

One of the most powerful illustrations of this truth is seen in C.S. Lewis story of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Eustace a very frustrating boy who through the greediness of his own heart fell asleep on a treasure and was turned into a dragon. This caused tremendous amounts of pain and frustration for him and those who were traveling with him. Throughout the voyage a mouse named Reepicheep would call out Eustace when he would act selfish or unseemly, much to Eustace’s frustration. In this part of the story Eustace in the form of a dragon is in a deep despair as he feels that he will never be a boy again. Here is what Lewis says:

Parents don’t miss Christmas

Have spiritual conversations with your kids

I am a huge fan of C. S. Lewis in general and the Narnia series in particular. I read through the Naria series with each of my kids and have stumbled onto something by accident that Lewis did on purpose. Lewis used the imaginary world of Narnia to tell us about the world we live in. He was so brilliant because his imaginary world creates context for things that are hard for kids (and adults for that matter) to grapple with.

Lewis through his series talks about greed, God’s sovereignty, Heaven, Redemption and many more topics. Each of these is difficult because young kids are such concrete thinkers so abstract ideas are difficult to convey. Lewis through the world that he made for us in Narnia gives us what we as parents are so desperately looking for, concrete metaphors for abstract realities.

One of the more profound illustrations of this is found in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Here is what Lewis says

“The White Witch?” said Edmund; “who’s she?”

“She is a perfectly terrible person,” said Lucy. “She calls herself the Queen of Narnia thought she has no right to be queen at all, and all the Fauns and Dryands and Naiads and Dwarfs and Animals—at least all the good ones—simply hate her. And she can turn people into stone and do all kinds of horrible things. And she has made a magic so that it is always winter in Narnia—always winter, but it never gets to Christmas. And she drives about on a sledge, drawn by reindeer, with her wand in her hand and a crown on her head.”

Living in upstate New York, where last winter it didn’t get above 32 degrees for over 9 weeks straight, this illustration hits home. To suffer through a perpetual winter without the joy, hope and life that Christmas brings would be unbearable. I can’t think of a better illustration for life without the advent of Christ. Our life without the joy and hope that Christ brings is cold, lifeless and hopeless. So parents this Christmas use Lewis’ particularly vivid illustration of what life is like without Christ to bring to life the true meaning of Christmas for your kids. To think of life without Christmas for any child is utterly unthinkable. To think of life without Christ should be equally unthinkable.

Merry Christmas.

We want methods, but we need mystery

I was reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis to my 7-year-old boy. This is my 4th time through the Narnia books. I find so many profound truths littered through Lewis’ brilliant series. The one that struck me last night was from the end of the book. The kids return from many adventures in Narnia and they went to the Professor to tell him why four coats were missing. He believed them because he too had been to Narnia. The Professor told them something quite profound, he said:

You wont get into Narnia again by that route. Nor would the coats be much use by now if you did! Eh? What’s That? Ye, of course you’ll get back to Narnia again someday. Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don’t go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don’t try to get there at all. It’ll happen when you are not looking for it.