Summary: focuses on the movie/book series The Chronicles of Narnia, comparing the witch’s love of power, and Aslan (Christ) as the model for the power of love.
“ENCOUNTERING THE POWER”
Our two Scripture readings set the theme for the third Sunday of Advent. In Isaiah we hear the promise of God intervening in a hurting world to bring comfort and hope, to bring good news to the oppressed, the brokenhearted, liberty to the captives. Our second Scripture reading, in Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, says that God has done this, but in a very surprising way- through God in Jesus Christ coming in a humble way, even willing to die on a cross.
This raises an interesting question: why should God come into the world in such a weak, powerless way? Why come as a tiny baby, and then live in such a humble, weak way, even to the point of death? And what would the world be like without Christmas?
A movie that opened this past weekend, The Chronicles of Narnia, actually explores these questions, telling of a world where Christmas was banned, covered in a winter of fear and hopelessness. The movie is the first of a children’s fantasy series, written by C.S. Lewis, this one called “The lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Lewis was an Oxford professor of medieval Literature, who became a Christian in part through the influence of his friend and colleague Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien convinced Lewis, who loved the literary genre of myth – and myth in literature simply means a story that points to a larger or deeper meaning about life – that in this case the myth of Christianity, of God coming into the world through Jesus Christ, is a myth that happens to be true. Lewis wrote a number of influential books on Christian thinking, from “Mere Christianity” to “The Problem of Pain” to “Surprised by Joy.” But in 1948 Lewis returned to his love of myth, or of stories that are parables that point us to larger truths, and he began writing a series of children’s books that can be read on one level as exciting adventures with moral lessons, but that also have basic Christian truths imbedded in the stories. In particular the somewhat mysterious hero in the series is a great lion, Aslan, who clearly is a Christ figure.
In the story of the first book, that is followed in the movie, the four children in the Pevensie family are sent to the countryside to stay with an elderly professor while the blitzkrieg rages in wartime London. First Lucy, then the others, discover an old wardrobe that leads into a magical kingdom called Narnia, populated by dwarfs, fauns and talking beasts that now is under the wintry spell of an evil queen witch, whose hold over the land is broken only the arrival of the four children, and by the great lion named Aslan.
The story can be seen as a parable about good and evil, of the temptation and abuse of power, and of the kind of power that can heal and cleanse. It’s about the love of power, and the power of love. You know, power is a strange force. There is the familiar saying that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And there is the definite tendency that the longer a person has power the more likely he or she will begin to abuse it. On the other hand, powerlessness is even more destructive – for then you don’t have a choice for good or evil, and the feeling of helplessness can be just as corrupting as the feeling of absolute power. There is a core basic theme of the Christian faith that deals with power, especially the choice between the love of power and the power of love. And that is also the theme of the Chronicles of Narnia – two kinds of power battling for the control of Narnia and its people. Let’s look at these two kinds of power.
First is the love of power. Ronald Levy, a first grader in Philadelphia, was told to come directly home from school, but he arrived late almost every day. He often took almost 20 minutes longer to come home than to walk to school. His mother asked him, “You get out of school the same time every day. Why can’t you get home at the same time?” And he replied, “It depends on the cars.” What do cars have to do with it?” The youngster explained, “The patrol boy who takes us across the street makes us wait until some cars come along, so that he can stop them.”
The story of Christmas tells of paranoid king Herod, willing to massacre children in order to protect his power. And Joseph and Mary had to fight another kind of power, of peer pressure, what society might think when Mary became pregnant before she was supposed to. They evidently managed to be away from home much of her pregnancy, perhaps to avoid the attitudes and comments of others.