Summary: Introductory sermon to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Theme: "The world is not as it should be."
ALWAYS WINTER AND NEVER CHRISTMAS—Romans 8:19-21 and other texts
(all Bible quotations are from the New International Version)
Oxford, England, September 18, 1931. Two brilliant young professors walk in the darkness until 3:00 a.m. Jack and Tollers have become fast friends, drawn together by their love for obscure philosophers and ancient myths and fairy tales. But tonight, Jack is not talking about literature; he is desperately looking for answers to his doubts. He has recently given his life to God, in his own words “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England,” but he struggles to believe the most basic truths of the Gospel. His friend Tollers is a Christian, but instead of quoting Scripture or arguing philosophy, he begins to talk about the stories they both love so much. Tollers says that in every great story, there is something good and deep—something that points to the best and deepest story—The Real Story—God’s story of salvation through Jesus Christ.
I don’t know whether you like to think of the Gospel as a story. Maybe you prefer doctrine and truth-statements that can be dissected and analyzed. After all, Peter says, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16) Yet the Bible is at its root a story, not “cleverly invented” but true—a story of God and people, of good and evil, of betrayal and forgiveness, of frustration and redemption. It is a story that is not only true to the facts, but true to life—mysterious yet down-to-earth. It is a story that is simple enough for children, yet deep enough to address our deepest needs.
That September walk was a breakthrough for Jack, and two weeks later he told a friend that his doubts were no longer holding him back from his commitment to follow Christ. He told his friend Tollers that the world needed more stories that would point to The Real Story. Tollers, best known as J.R.R. Tolkien, went on to write the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jack, who wrote as C.S. Lewis, wrote literary essays and philosophy and apologetics. He didn’t get around to writing his best stories until much later in life, and when he did his stories were written for children and for those “old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” I was “old enough” to read The Chronicles of Narnia in college, and they had a huge impact on my faith.
Now Disney is betting $180 million that children and grownups will go to see one of those stories of Narnia in movie form. You should see the movie for yourself. Many of your non-Christian friends and neighbors will see the movie, and you should talk with them about it, and invite them to come to church next Sunday as we talk about Jack’s most difficult question that night, “I simply don’t understand how the life and death of Someone Else (whoever he was) 2000 years ago can help us here and now.”
But this is not a commercial for a movie. Whether you choose to see the movie or not, I want to talk to you today about some parts of The Real Story that maybe you haven’t thought about lately.
If you were going to write a story, how would it begin? Most of the world’s greatest stories begin with a painful reality: Things are not as they should be. Cinderella has a wicked stepmother and stepsisters. Sleeping Beauty has been cursed by a disgruntled old fairy. Hansel and Gretel are driven by starvation to the house of a wicked witch. Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother has been killed by the Big Bad Wolf. Snow White (in the original version) has a jealous mother who hires a hit man to kill her daughter.
Why do the greatest stories begin like that? The world is not as it should be. There are tsunamis and hurricanes, war and starvation, earthquakes and pollution. Marriages fall apart, children quarrel, politicians lie, and people we trust betray us. The world is not as it should be. The Bible describes it like this: “The creation was subjected to frustration…[in] bondage to decay…” (Romans 8:20-21) We can see it everywhere we look.
In C.S. Lewis’ story, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the world is not as it should be. World War II is in full swing, and 4 children have been sent to the country to escape the daily Nazi air raids on London. The world is not as it should be. Magically, the children enter another world—a wonderful world called Narnia, where animals talk and trees are friendly and magic happens. But even Narnia is not as it should be. It is winter in Narnia, cold and desolate. It is always winter in Narnia—and never Christmas! And in the winter of Narnia, the animals are afraid to talk out loud, the trees are stark and barren, and the magic is dark and dangerous.