Summary: This is the third of three sermons based on "The Chronicles of Narnia."
The Dawning of Spring
Narnia 3 (1 Thes. 4:13-18
Introduction: Always winter and never Christmas.
1. Imagine a land of perpetual winter.
When the four Pevensie children entered Narnia they learned that it was always winter and never Christmas. Christmas is the most anticipated time of the year and for many it is what makes the winter worth enduring. But what would winter be like if it never ended and Christmas never came? Imagine a child, anticipating the joy of Christmas, being told that Christmas isn’t coming and we don’t know if it ever will again.
2. Winter in Palm Springs.
Winter in Palm Springs is the most beautiful time of the year, so it may be hard for us to relate. We would better understand the torment of perpetual summer! But there are places in this country where snow is not a cute novelty. There are places that are bone chilling cold and people cannot wait for the spring. Even here, behind San Jacinto Mt. it gets dark before 5:00. Those that are working may not get to enjoy the beautiful weather during the day. Some may love winter, but no one really wants it forever. Winter is complete with the joy of Christmas and the promise of spring! Never ending winter is a place of death without hope, dominated by fear. Narnia is fictional, but many live in never ending winter.
Trouble in the text: Death threatens hope (read v. 13).
1. Death threatens the hope of the Christian community in Thessalonica.
Paul and his co-workers were run out of town when they came to Thessalonica (cf. Acts 17). They had just started the church and were able to teach them about the 2nd coming of Christ. Timothy has been back to Thessalonica to get a report to take back to Paul (it was mostly good). Apparently, some of the church had died (fallen asleep). This caused the Thessalonians to loose hope. They knew that the Lord would come, but thought that the dead would miss out this benefit of his coming. So, they despaired when their loved ones in Christ died.
2. The ancient world faced death with despair.
Paul’s concern is not that they will not grieve, but rather they not grieve like those with no hope. Who are those that have no hope? They are those that see death as final or at best have some unsubstantiated vague notion of the afterlife. Here is a 2nd century letter regarding death:
Irene to Taonnophris and Philo, good comfort. I was as sorry and wept over the departed one as I wept for Didymus. And all things whatsoever were fitting, I did, and all mine, Epaphroditus and Thermunthion and Philion and Apollonius and Plantas. But, nevertheless, against such things one can do nothing. Therefore comfort ye one another. (The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Leon Morris, pg. 90).
It seems the idea is to comfort one another, though there is really no hope. This is not how Paul wanted Christians to grieve.
Trouble in our world: It is still winter on earth.
1. Our experience on earth is filled with loss.
We all go through our personal times of winter, times of loss, and ultimately our own death. This world is still full of wintry moments. A Tsunami, a year ago, wiped out over 200,000 people…winter. A hurricane completely destroys one of our major cities…winter. Over forty million abortions in the last 33 years…winter. A personal loss in your family, chronic pain, eventual death are all symptoms of a fallen world, under the spell of an evil ruler. We cry out with the rest of creation; will it ever be spring!?
Not much has changed since Paul’s time in how people experience death. A young lady that I studied with in Japan wrote me several years ago after her friend and 18 year-old student died in a car accident. “It was too early to die wasn’t it? I can’t believe it’s fact. His parents, his friends, and many, many people are very sad. Is this accident destiny? Has God known about it? Actually God doesn’t do anything for us. My student never comes back and our sadness will never disappear.” This is winter w/o Christmas and no hope of spring.
2. Why the hope of Christmas leads to hope of spring.
The famous line in the book/movie is “Aslan is on the move.” Everything would change when Aslan would come to Narnia. Before Jesus came into our world there was only winter…no hope. But in Jesus came not just a baby boy, but God made flesh! What do you think is going to happen when God comes into the world? Things are going to change! We said last week that Jesus has won the victory through his death and resurrection. It may still be winter, but it is the dawning of spring!