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Advent in Narnia

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Advent 1

Isaiah 2:1–5

War and a Wardrobe
(Chapters 1–2)

Advent Candle: HOPE
Communion

C. S. Lewis writes this story against the backdrop of war. Little children shipped to the North of England, away from London bombings. Imagine the Pevensie children’s fear and powerlessness, but also the power of a story like this to restore their hope.

Isaiah 2:1–5 is also a text of hope against the backdrop of war. One is coming who will “judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

Worship Ideas: “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout (Canticle of the Turning)” Cooney, GtG 100, LUYH 69, PfAS 75B

Saturday

Narnia Night

Advent 2

Luke 1:26–56

Wonder
(Chapters 3–5)

Advent Candle: JOY

When Lucy returns from the wardrobe world of Narnia, her siblings won’t believe her. It’s hard to blame them. What a strange world she describes. It hardly seems possible to children like Susan and Peter, who are working so hard to be grown up. So, in chapter 5, they approach the Professor, who surprises them by upending their certainty with possibility and with wonder.

Two thousand years before, a girl not much older than Susan wondered, “How can this be?” The truest things are not always the most probable. Salvation comes in extraordinary ways.

Worship Ideas: “Imagine” Getty, LUYH 72

Advent 3

Isaiah 35
Matthew 3:1–12

Father Christmas’ Gifts
(Chapters 6–10)

Advent Candle: LOVE

A thaw has come to Narnia and, with it comes a forerunner of Aslan: Father Christmas bringing gifts to all the Narnian animals, the Sons of Adam, and the Daughters of Eve. The gifts he brings are meant to prepare the Pevensie children for the hard work of following Aslan, who is coming.

Isaiah 35 tells us the story of a spring thaw too. Meanwhile, we remember that Christ also had a forerunner in his cousin, John the Baptizer. And in baptism we receive the gifts we need to follow Christ, who is coming.

Worship Ideas:

Advent 4

Longest Night Service
“Always Winter, Never Christmas”

Christmas Eve (morning)

Isaiah 9:1–7

Awaiting Aslan
(Chapters 11–15)

Lessons & Carols
Advent Candle: PEACE

The whole of Advent is this: Waiting the birth of the Christ child in the same way we wait for the return of Christ’s Kingdom. The whole of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe covers the same: waiting for Aslan and waiting for the triumph of Narnia. So there are many places within both stories to draw Lessons and Carols source material.

When the Pevensie children hear Aslan’s name for the first time it does different things in each of them, revealing their heart’s truest needs. The names of Christ—“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”—do a similar work in us.

Worship Ideas:

Christmas Eve

Matthew 3:1–12

“Us Lions”
(Chapters 16–17)

CHRIST CANDLE
Candlelight Communion

There is a wonderful scene in chapter 16 of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in which Aslan is instructing all the Narnian creatures where they will go and what they will do in the battle with the White Witch. He says, “those who are good with their noses must come in front with us lions to smell out where the battle is.” A recently de-petrified lion bounds in and among the other warriors exclaiming, “Us Lions. That’s what I like about Aslan. No side, no stand-off-ishness. Us Lions. That meant him and me.”

In this we hear again the good news of the incarnation. That God does not declare humanity too broken or earth too dirty. Nothing is beneath him. God, in Christ, came to Earth so that he might also declare, “Us Humans.” This is the miracle we celebrate on Christmas Eve: God has become one of us humans.

Worship Ideas:

New Year’s Eve

Malachi 3:1-4
Romans 13:8-14

Concerning Edmund

New Year/Old Year

Among all the Pevensie children, Edmund is unique. He is duped by the White Witch, enslaved by her promises and judicious giftings of Turkish delight. He struggles to know what is true. He turns on his siblings and endangers all of Narnia. And then he is found, redeemed, and returned to service as a soon-to-be-King of Narnia.

At this time of year, when we set aside what we have been and work to set new patterns and habits for the new year, Edmund’s story might inspire all of us to seek forgiveness, redemption, and new work as a part of Christ’s kingdom.

Worship Ideas:

First Sunday in the New Year

   

Communion
Epiphany Stars

Catalogued Quotations

War

  • Lewis comments on all the talk of war or violence in these books: “I think it frightens adults but very few children” (Rowan Williams, p. 14).
  • “Lewis had a deep-seated conviction that death was not the worst thing that could happen to anyone” (Rowan Williams, p. 45).
  • “Tyranny and suffering and above all the dreary dictatorship of unthinking and bullying power are what Aslan delivers us from” (Rowan Williams, p.51).
  • “It’s—it’s a magic wardrobe. There’s a wood inside it, and it’s snowing, and there’s a Faun and a Witch and it’s called Narnia; come and see” (Rowan Williams, p. 115).
  • “We go through a door into a reality that is bigger than the one we have left behind; the world opens out, it shows itself to be ‘bigger on the inside than the outside’” (Rowan Williams, p. 115).
  • “When the bomb falls there will always be just that split second in which one can say, ‘Pooh! You’re only a bomb. I’m an immortal soul,’ This is not airy dismissal of a real threat but evidence of a firm sense of proportion. The threat is terrible but not unique and no level of threat should make you question your—and your neighbour’s—value in the sight of your Maker” (Rowan Williams, p. 128-129).
  • “It is alway worth recalling that Lewis fought in the trenches; he was not prone to minimize these things.”
  • “We are invited to see ourselves as living ‘under occupation’ and summoned to join a resistance movement” (Rowan Williams p. 140).

Wonder

  • “What Lewis implies in the way he deals with such questions is that some matters are better dealt with through narrative and imagination than through attempts at systematizing; a conclusion that shouldn’t surprise any reader of Holy Scripture” (Rowan Williams, p. 6).
  • “The real possibility of joy beyond imagining, the fact that the world we think we know is soaked through with symbolic meaning and intelligent energy” (Rowan Williams, p. 18-19).
  • “How do you make fresh what is thought to be familiar, so familiar that it doesn’t need to be thought about?” (Rowan Williams, p. 19)
  • “The point of Narnia is to help us rinse out what is stale in our thinking about Christianity—which is almost everything” (Rowan Williams, p. 28).
  • “The stories are set up to disturb easy conclusions or conventional expectations” (Rowan Williams, p. 46).
  • Regarding The Screwtape Letters, “the perspective of the devils is a tidy and orderly one, so tidy and orderly that it successfully conceals the ultimate nonsense of the spiritual world they inhabit, whose goals can only be control or absorption of each other. Against this joyless order stands the unpredictable world of grace” (Rowan Williams, p. 51-52).
  • “If the price of some kinds of even well-attested ‘truth’ is the abolition of some dimensions of human imagining, it is too high. And, in certain moods, the most dedicated believer will be faced with the apparent emptiness of the claims that faith makes and will have to decide whether or not to cling to the hope of another kind of sense, not simply available for inspection by the casual observer...we are in risky territory; but no one could say that we were being offered a bland or consoling version of faith” (Rowan Williams, p. 61-62).
  • “The more we are preoccupied with the tangles, the more we are likely to have lost sight of that sense of the possible. We can’t renew it just by trying hard. We can at least put ourselves in the way of rediscovering it by letting down the guard of our imagination from time to time” (Rowan Williams p.143).

Father Christmas

Awaiting Aslan

  • The Pevensie children “do not know who Aslan is ‘any more than you do,’ as Lewis tells the reader, but ‘some enormous meaning’ is called up, like something heard or glimpsed in a dream that mysteriously promises to give shape to an otherwise chaotic bundle of events or impressions. Edmund feels horror, Peter feels ‘brave and adventurous,’ Susan has the sensation of a scent or a strain of music, and Lucy ‘got that feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer’” (Rowan Williams, p. 49).
  • From the Silver Chair, “‘If you are thirsty you may drink,’ says the Lion. But Jill is afraid. ‘Will you promise not to - do anything to me, if I do come?’ she asks; and the Lion replies, ‘I make no promises.’...Aslan makes no promise; nothing can make him safe, and there is no approaching him without an overwhelming sense of risk. But there is no other stream” (Rowan Williams, p. 62-63).
  • “Reconnection with reality has a price: the liberator is not safe (only ‘good’), and his unsafeness is both a carnival of liberation and a relentless austerity, the sheer inescapability of what he is and what he asks. The price of encountering reality, we might say, is precisely the recognition that there isn’t an alternative to it. And the challenge is whether we can believe that, often in spite of appearances, it is a well-spring of joy” (Rowan Williams, p. 70).
  • “Aslan loves his world and yet he cannot spare it -- in the sense that he cannot make the experience of meeting him easy for persons who habitually settle for much less than the truth in their account of themselves and their world” (Rowan Williams, p. 75).

“Us Lions”

  • “The kingdom of Narnia is where the action of Aslan is most clearly present and recognized, where the decisive things happen that shape the destiny of the rest of the world. And this means that the kingdom of Narnia is itself the ‘Church,’ the community where transforming relation with Aslan becomes fully possible” (Rowan Williams, p. 20).
  • For the bulletin cover: “In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world” (Rowan Williams, p.116, from The Last Battle).
  • “The Incarnation is often spoken of, not least in Christian poetry, as the containing of the uncontainable: ‘In this rose contained was Heaven and earth in little space,’ in the words of the mediaeval carol; or John Donne’s ‘Eternity cloister’d in thy dear womb,’ The bread and wine of the Eucharist are likewise seen as embodying and carrying the infinitely greater reality of the act and presence of Christ in his full humanity and divinity” (Rowan Williams, p. 133-134).

Concerning Edmund

  • “Susan is guilty of what Edmund in The Lion is initially guilty of, no more and no less, which is the refusal to admit the reality of Narnia when you have actually lived there” (Rowan Williams, p. 41).
  • “The orderliness of a world focused on the self is doomed to be disrupted by grace; and we can’t appreciate quite what Aslan is about unless and until we see him in action against that kind of order” (Rowan Williams, p. 52).
  • “Things are as they are; our choices have been what they have been and have made us what we now are; there is nowhere else to begin” (Rowan Williams, p. 75).
  • “The admission of responsibility does not bring punishment. It simply opens up the next stage in a conversation with Aslan that will not move forward until we have forced truth out of our mouths—not because we are being ruthlessly interrogated but simply because we cannot move until this happens” (Rowan Williams, p. 78)
  • “Most sins are actually not dramatic acts of defiance but a half-conscious and certainly half-witted drift towards falsehood or a course reluctantly undertaken out of feebleness and cowardice. Aslan does not despise any of this, not does he make light of it; he simply deals with it” (Rowan Williams, p. 81).
  • “There are two non-negotiable things in contact here—the unalterable character of Aslan himself on the one hand, and the irreversible actually of what we have done or what we have made of ourselves on the other” (Rowan Williams, p. 87).
  • “This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there” (Rowan Williams, p. 143, from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader).

Other

  • “A relentless insistence on self-questioning, not so as to understand ourselves in the abstract or as ‘interesting’ individuals, but simply to discover where we are afraid of the truth and where we turn away into self-serving falsehood” (Rowan Williams, p. 6-7)
  • “The natural pride or arrogance of the human spirit is chastened by the revelation that, in Narnia, you may be on precisely the same spiritual level as a badger or a mouse. Narnia is thus not only about encountering God in a new way; it is about thinking of your own humanity in a rich and surprising context” (Rowan Williams, p. 20-21).
  • “‘You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,’ said Aslan. ‘And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content” (Prince Caspian, quoted by Rowan Williams, p. 23).
  • C. S. Lewis is, in these stories, “introducing us to a God who, so far from being the guarantor of the order that we see around us, is its deadly enemy” (Rowan Williams, p. 50).
  • “As The Great Divorce repeatedly insists, the only decision to be a stranger to heaven is ours. Once such a decision is made and once it becomes a habit of mind, the persistent work of God break through is bound to experienced as an assault on the citadel of the soul rather than a campaign to liberate that soul from its self-imposed captivity” (Rowan Williams, p. 87-88).
  • From the Magician’s Nephew: “Oh, Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!” (Rowan Williams, p. 101).
  • “As Aslan implies, both energy and ingenuity are needed to deny what is in front of your nose, and human beings are astonishingly liberal with this energy and ingenuity—until they are unable to do otherwise, or as near unable as we can imagine” (Rowan Williams, p. 102).
  • “Lewis is determined to turn on its head the common assumption that faith is one of those things that the intelligent human will simply grow out of: on the contrary, we shall be constantly growing into it, without end. Part of this growing also means that the habits of faith that served us well at earlier stages may not survive untouched” (Rowan Williams, p. 122).
  • “Ultimately, the imagery of the wardrobe and the stable, standing at the beginning and the conclusion of the Narnia stories like bookends, is there to say something substantial about the whole relation of God to the world, the human Jesus to the divine Word, the body to the soul, the inexhaustible character of human identity itself” (Rowan Williams, p. 135).