For many of us, Christmas is suffering’s megaphone. Sparkly Christmas lights, uplifting songs, and everyone else’s happiness unite to amplify our cheer when all is going well, but join forces to crush us all is not well.
Crowded driveways in nearby houses are daily reminders of the family reunion that our own family is too broken to enjoy.
Advertisements of children’s toys mock our pain at the loss of our own children, and force us to relive the memory of packing their toys away.
The miracle of the baby in the manger heightens our confusion at the emptiness of our own womb.
Our generous heart becomes a burden rather than a blessing as our unemployment destroys our budget and our pride.
Christmas romance shines a spotlight on our isolation.
The hope of advent can appear to be the height of cruel irony. Hope can feel impossible when life seems to be always winter, and never Christmas. After all, it is true that:
“During the harshness of winter, nothing is asked of the tree, but to survive.
The leaves fall off, and the tree becomes barren and ugly.
But beauty is not called for in the winter.
All that is called for is survival.” –Henry Close
C.S. Lewis painted a picture of barren, ugly hopelessness in his classic The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe; an entire world under the curse of an eternal arctic winter, forever denied the warming power of Christmas. Until, that is, these words became true:
“Aslan is on the move.”
Aslan’s return was preceded by the present reality of Aslan’s power. The curse was shattered and the winter had met its death. The snow melted, the birds sang, brooks bubbled and flowers grew. Beauty swallowed what was ugly, and the inhabitants of Narnia found themselves exclaiming, “The Spring has arrived!”
But the witch was not yet dead. There were still battles ahead to be fought. The curse had been defeated, but its effect would linger. In our world, just like theirs, we cling to the mysterious promise, “All shall be done, but it may be harder than you think.” The witch was not yet dead, but the advent of Spring heralded her demise. In our story, just like in hers, the markers of Aslan’s return promise that all the sad things will be made untrue.
Hope never asks us to ignore the effects of winter in our own lives. Hope never demands that we deaden our hearts, mask our pain, and assume a self-destructive posture of empty cheer. Instead, Hope always simply asks us to take our own story in one hand, and the story of the God in the manger in our other hand, and bring them together to make one story.
Advent reminds us that even when our own lives seem to be always winter, and never Christmas, Spring is on the way.
Aslan is on the move.