Finding God in Narnia part 2
Always Winter, Never Christmas
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 25, 2005

 

There’s the Grinch… that familiar villain of Christmas. That was one of my favourite shows as a kid. Hey, what am I saying? It’s still one of my favourites! Who here has ever seen “How the Grinch stole Christmas”? Sure, just about everyone!

Well then, you know that this Grinch hated Christmas, and so he decided he would ruin it for everyone. He thought if he stole all the toys and all the decorations and all the Christmas goodies, that Christmas would disappear. He’s a mean one, that Mr. Grinch. Here… sing the song with me…

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch. You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus, You're as charming as an eel.
Mr. Grinch.

You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel.

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch. Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders, You've got garlic in your soul.
Mr. Grinch.

I wouldn't touch you, with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.

You're a vile one, Mr. Grinch. You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile.
Mr. Grinch.

Given the choice between the two of you I'd take the seasick crocodile.

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch. You're a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks, Your soul is full of gunk.
Mr. Grinch.

The three words that best describe you, are, and I quote: "Stink. Stank. Stunk."

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch. You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a dead tomato splot With moldy purple spots,
Mr. Grinch.

Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing
with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable,
Mangled up in tangled up knots.

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch. With a nauseaus super-naus.
You're a crooked jerky jockey And you drive a crooked horse.
Mr. Grinch.

You're a three decker saurkraut and toadstool sandwich With arsenic sauce.

Copyright © 1957, Dr. Seuss.

 

That Dr. Seuss sure had a way with words, eh? Of course, the Grinch’s plan to steal Christmas didn’t quite work and he didn’t ruin Christmas and Christmas went on despite all his efforts. But what if he had succeeded? What if someone could really steal Christmas?

Last week, we began our series on “Finding God in Narnia.” And we talked briefly about how in “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” there are four siblings who all wind up in another land… the Land of Narnia. Narnia, of course, is populated by all sorts of talking animals and other kinds of mythical and mystical creatures… everything except humans. And at the time the children enter Narnia, they discover the land is under the rule of the White Witch, Jadis, and she has placed a curse on the land. This is how Lucy described the curse to her brothers and sister…

“She has made an enchantment over the whole country so that it is always winter here and never Christmas.”
~ Lucy, to her siblings in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

You can understand the “always winter” part, can’t you? Here in PEI it certainly seems like that sometimes. Our winters last a looooong time, but at least there’s Christmas. Christmas almost makes winter worth having.

Well, in Narnia, this White Witch had been reigning for one hundred years, and during that entire time Narnia was a land where it was always winter but never Christmas. It was a bleak, cold, and gray land. The White Witch was the Grinch… she had indeed stolen Christmas.

So that got me to thinking… what if it really were always winter, never Christmas? How would things be different? Let me give you four ways. The first one’s mot all that important, the next two are a bit more significant, and the fourth one is crucial for every person everywhere. Okay? Now, the first is pretty obvious…

 

What if that first Christmas had never happened?

1. Our Christmas traditions would not exist.

What would that mean for us? Well, think about it…

• December 25 would just be another day on the calendar.
• Students would have no December break from school.
• There’d be no family gatherings for the holidays, no carols to sing, no gifts to give.
• There’d be no market for artificial trees or strings of lights.
• No decorations.
• Our economy would grind to a halt.
• There’d be no first-telling, let alone retellings, of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”.
• There’d be no annual airings of “The Sound of Music,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or Charlie Brown Christmas specials.
• No Santa Claus… no elves at the North Pole.
• No Dasher! no, Dancer! No Prancer or Vixen!
• No, Comet! No Cupid! No Donder nor Blitzen!
• There’d certainly be no Rudolph.
• And there’d be no angels, or mangers, or shepherds, or pastors dressing up in bathrobes for a kids’ Christmas presentation.

Without Christmas, there’d be nothing to look forward to as the days get shorter… nothing to anticipate all year long. There’d be plenty of things we would miss, if there were no Christmas.

But those are all surface things. If Christmas really didn’t exist, there are some much more important things we’d be missing. Like this…

 

2. We would have far fewer charities and humanitarian organizations.

If Jesus had not come, then He would not have grown up to teach us how to love our neighbour as ourselves. And let me tell you, judging by the way we were going before He came, there’s a good chance we would have never discovered that on our own. We needed God in the flesh to teach us to be godly.

[Matthew 12:31 (NLT) - “Love your neighbor as yourself.”]

So what happened because Jesus came and taught us to love like this? Well, because of the teachings of Jesus, in the midst of a violent culture, the early Christians began to care for widows and for orphans… they cared for the sick and the disabled. They cared for the dying. Eventually, they built and staffed hospitals. They took care of the poor and the underprivileged. And right down to today, almost every charitable organization that exists was begun by a Christian… including the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, World Relief, World Hope, World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion International.

In fact, after the Tsnuami last December and after the hurricanes this past summer, and after just about every disaster… Churches and Christians and Christian-rooted organizations have been the first ones in to provide medical aid and relief. All because Jesus loved us enough to come to earth as a child, to grow up, and to teach us to pass that love on to others.

 

3. The face of education would be very different.

Just like charities and humanitarian organizations, all the top educational institutions were begun by Christians. Oxford, Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Princeton… all began as Christian schools. Perhaps they were inspired by words like this…

Romans 12:5, 7 (NLT)
And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others…
If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching.

2 Timothy 2:24 (NLT)
The Lord's servants… must be able to teach effectively…

Colossians 3:16 (NIV)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…

Whatever the reason, followers of Jesus were at the forefront of education. Even Sunday Schools, when they began back in 1780, were begun to provide schooling for children who were working in the factories during the Industrial Revolution. So education and scientific discovery and invention and technological advancement… they all find themselves rooted in Christianity and the teachings of Jesus.

 

If there had never been a Christmas, the world would be far different than it is today. And I could go on to talk about how Christianity has contributed to Art, to Literature, to Music. Without that first Christmas, this world would be a much bleaker place… like it was in Narnia. And there would be incredible voids in our society.

But there’s one more way in which this world would be different without Christmas, and it’s what I want to spend the rest of the time here this morning talking about. Without that first Christmas…

 

4. We would still be lost to our sinfulness.

But that first Christmas did happen, Jesus did come, and He came to rescue us from our sinfulness. Jesus Himself declared…

Luke 19:10 (NLT)
“And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those… who are lost.”

Remember last week when we talked about the one sentence that brought hope to everyone in Narnia? Remember what that was? It was the statement, “Aslan is on the move!” And we saw that in Narnia, Aslan is the image of Jesus. He is the true king… the Son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-sea. And when Aslan returns, he will get rid of the White Witch, and the long winter will be over. Life will flourish once again.

Let me read you a section from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. You’ll remember that last week we saw that the four children had entered Narnia and met up with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, they had heard that Aslan was on the move, and then they decided to try to meet up with Aslan, all the while trying to evade the White Witch. And while they were on their way, they heard a sleigh coming their way. Now, because it was always winter, the White Witch rode around on a sleigh. So this whole gang ran as fast as they could and tried to hide from her by ducking into a cave.

The sleigh stopped, time passed, and Mr. Beaver decided to go out and see what was going on. This is what it says next…

“It’s all right!” Mr. Beaver was shouting from somewhere beyond the mouth of the cave. “Come out, Mrs. Beaver. Come out, Sons and Daughters of Adam and Eve. It’s all right! It isn’t her!”

Not her! Lucy hardly dared to believe it. All night long, while the silent snow drifted down through the arms of the great trees, she had shivered in the darkness of the underground burrow, listening breathlessly for the sound of the Witch’s sleigh bells. Through the black hours their dreaded jangle had haunted her dreams. More than once she had awakened in a cold sweat, imagining that the Queen was upon them at last.

Then came a moment of truth. In the gray dawn, just outside the door, the unmistakable ring of harness bells! It was with trembling lips that Lucy had watched Mr. Beaver slip out into the half-darkness for a closer look. And now she could hear him calling, “Come out! It isn’t her!”

Who, then? That’s the question that filled every mind as they trudged through the wood toward the clearing. They had their answer as soon as they saw him: a great, glad giant of a man, all in red, with a snowy white beard streaming down over the breast of his ample robe.

“I’ve got in at last!” boomed Father Christmas, for of course it was he. “She has kept me out for a long time, but her magic is weakening.”

Lucy shivered, more with excitement than with the cold. “Always winter and never Christmas,” that’s what Mr. Tumnus had said about the Witch’s enchantment. It was a dreary, depressing thought. But now, it seemed, all that was about to change. For here he was! And “Aslan,” she heard Father Christmas saying, “Aslan is on the move.”

He had gifts for each of them, of course: a sword and a shield for Peter; a bow, quiver, and a little ivory horn for Susan. For Lucy there was a dagger and a wonderful diamond flask filled with a healing cordial.

“And now,” said Father Christmas, smiling, “here is something for the moment!” And suddenly in the middle of the snowy wood there appeared cups and saucers, cream and sugar, and a great big steaming pot of hot tea.

The best tea I’ve ever had, thought Lucy as she sat in the cold shadows of the Beaver-burrow, cradling her cup in her hands. Somewhere outside in the growing light, a great voice trumpeted a triumphant farewell: “A Merry Christmas! Long live the true King!
 

Father Christmas was able to come to Narnia… why?... because Aslan was on the move. And Christmas comes to you and me because Jesus is on the move. And He’s working in our lives. And someday, he will set us free from all the darkness and all of the turmoil and all of the stress and all of the depression and all of the bleakness of life as it is now.

But let’s look back at the first Christmas. In fact, let’s look back even before it. 700 years before Jesus came, there was a prophecy given to Isaiah…

Isaiah 9:2, 6 (NLT)
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light--a light that will shine on all who live in the land where death casts its shadow…
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

At the time Isaiah shared this prophecy, the nation of Israel was under an occupation by the Assyrians. The Assyrian army had conquered Israel and had taken many of the citizens away to a foreign land as captives. They were living in a time of darkness for them. But Isaiah wrote about a great light… a child who would be born and would set them free from the darkness!

And then in the New Testament, in the Gospel of John, this is what it says about the coming of Jesus…

John 1:4-5, 9 (NLT)
Life itself was in him, and this life gives light to everyone. The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it…
The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world.

At the time John wrote those words, Israel was occupied by the Romans. The people were once again subject to a foreign power. And they didn’t much like it. It was a time of darkness for them. But here again, we’re told about a light that will break through the darkness and overcome it.

Now, at the time of Isaiah’s writing, the people thought that maybe this child who would be born would overthrow the foreign power and set up his own kingdom here on earth. That’s why the circumstances of His birth were so unexpected. They were expecting an actual king born to a powerful, royal family, not some illegitimate kid born to a carpenter and teenaged girl in a barn.

And even during Jesus’ lifetime, there were some who expected Him to overthrow Rome. Including Judas, who tried to force Jesus’ hand.

But what they failed to understand was that Jesus’ Kingdom was already established. They were looking for Him to re-establish the Kingdom of Israel, but Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God… the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus came to defeat spiritual darkness. He came to restore our relationship with God the Father… the relationship that was severed when we as a race rebelled against Him. That’s why He came. So in your notes… Because came that first Christmas, we can have…

 

Because Jesus came, we can have…

• Peace

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He came to offer us peace with God. If He hadn’t come, our rebellion against God would continue to separate us from Him today. But because Jesus came, He offers us a restored relationship with God. So if you’re searching and if you’re looking for peace in your life, then put an end to your wanderings. Look to Jesus.

On the night of His birth, the angels told the shepherds…

Luke 2:14 (NLT)
"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors."


He came to give you peace. He also came to give you hope, and there would be no hope if He hadn’t come.

 

• Hope

“The absence of hope is despair.”
~ Wikipedia

But we don’t have to despair, because Jesus did come, and that means we can have hope. The apostle Paul wrote a couple of letters to his apprentice, Timothy, and at the very beginning of his first letter, he wrote…

1 Timothy 1:1 (NLT)
This letter is from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, appointed by the command of God our Savior and by Christ Jesus our hope.

Jesus is our hope. He is our hope for a future with Him. He is our hope for better days. He is our hope that there’s more than this life. He’s the hope that Isaiah alluded to when he wrote…

Isaiah 9:2 (NLT)
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light…

And I’m not talking about the “wishful thinking” kind of hope. The hope I’m talking about and that the Bible talks about is a confident expectation and trust that what is promised will become reality. It’s hope that enables us persevere and endure despite obstacles. It’s hope that permits us to look beyond the moment to our future reward. And it’s hope that is only possible because Jesus came.

Third, because Jesus came, we can have…

 

• A Second Chance

Because Jesus came, He’s offering you a second chance. He’s offering you a mulligan. He’s offering you a do-over. He’s offering you a second-chance…and a third... and a fourth… and a fifth. No matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done, Jesus wants to offer you forgiveness and a new start.

Acts 13:38-39 (NLT)
“In this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is freed from all guilt and declared right with God--something the Jewish law could never do.”

So we’re forgiven and given a second chance because Jesus came. If He hadn’t come, that wouldn’t be possible. And because Jesus came, we can have…

 

• New Life

Jesus Himself said…

John 10:10 (NLT)
“My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”

And as Paul wrote…

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!

You can have new life with Jesus because you’re reconnected with the source of life. And that’s good news! You see, death is the penalty for our rebellion against God, physically and spiritually. We all eventually die physically, but without Christ we’re already dead spiritually. And Jesus doesn’t want that to remain the status quo. So He came and died in your place so that you could be offered a new life… and eternal life… instead. He didn’t want you to be lost to your sinfulness.

We’re going to talk a lot more about that next week. But what you need to understand this morning is this: Jesus came for you. Christmas exists for you. Jesus came to offer you all of these things… peace and hope and a second chance and a new life… along with joy and purpose and forgiveness and love. Why would you ever want to reject that? You’re not going to find any greater bargain this Christmas.

 

So how do you take Jesus up on His offer? How do you accept all these things that Jesus came to give you? Well, John chapter one lays it out for you. It tells you that Jesus was God who came to earth as a child. But even though He was the God who created everything that exists, many didn’t recognize Him. But then it says…

John 1:12 (NLT)
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

So what do you have to do? You have to believe He is who He says He is, and you have to accept Him and His forgiveness and His leadership in your life. Believe and receive.

And if you’ve never done that, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do that this morning. He invites you to do it, no matter who you are or where you’re at. And personally, I can’t think of a better time than the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus for you to begin your new life, too.

Would you bow your heads and close your eyes? We’re going to pray in a moment. But before we do, let me ask you, do you want to receive what Jesus is offering you this morning? Do you want to begin this new life today? If so, then just look up and make eye contact with me.

 

All right, for those of you who raised your hands, or perhaps for those who wanted to but were a little scared to do that, I want to invite you to pray something like this… you don’t have to pray out loud, just pray in the quietness of your heart… You can pray…

“Jesus, I believe in You and I want to receive You into my life this morning. I’m sorry for trying to live life my way; I now choose to live it your way. Thank you for loving me enough to come to earth for me.”

If you’ve just prayed that prayer, then you need to let someone know about it. For the rest of you, you may want to pray something like this…

“Thank you, Jesus, for coming that first Christmas. Thank you for the difference You have made in this world and in my life. Thank you for the hope and peace and love and joy that is mine because You came. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

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