Summary: Advent is a time of watching, waiting and anticipating Jesus’ activity in our lives as Jesus has turned to each of us, to pull us into God’s great story of salvation for the world.
What are you waiting for?
This is an appropriate question to ask on this Sunday as we begin the new church year and as we begin the season of Advent, these four Sundays that lead up to Christmas. Advent is a time of preparation; our preparation often includes much time shopping, decorating, baking, and, hopefully, anticipating the joy of Christmas.
In our reading from the Gospel of Mark, we heard a lot about waiting and watching. Not a passive, sitting around kind of waiting, but an active, watchful waiting.
During this season of Advent, we will be looking at C. S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” If you haven’t already seen the advertising, this book is the basis of the movie coming out in a couple of weeks. I just reread that story and want to share with you a section from the start of the book that tells of someone watching and waiting.
As the book begins, four children are sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids. In the first chapter, one of the children, Lucy, discovers a wardrobe that opens to a magical land. She steps through the back of the wardrobe and finds herself in the land of Narnia. She was frightened, inquisitive and excited as she walked through the woods and meets Mr. Tumnus, half man and half-goat, a faun.
Mr. Tumnus, you see, was employed by the White Witch to watch and to wait – he was to watch out for Daughters of Eve and Sons of Adam – human beings. Immediately, Mr. Tumnus recognizes Lucy as a Daughter of Eve. He led Lucy to his house. He gave her food and drink and told her wonderful tales of life in the forest. Then he took out a strange little flute and began to play a lullaby. Listen to the movie soundtrack version of the “Mr. Tumnus Narnian Lullaby.” (www.walden.com/html/pub/lww/lww_mats_lullaby.jsp) Did you notice how the song went from peaceful to ominous? How often does that happen in our lives that we are sucked into a soothing lullaby before we realize the wrong turns we’ve made?
Let me read to you what happens in the book. (Page 13-last line to bottom of page 15: Mr. Tumnus plays his flute. Lucy prepares to leave. Mr. Tumnus becomes remorseful, admitting he is in the service of the Winter Witch).
Mr. Tumnus is heartbroken because all this time, he has been watching and waiting for humans so that he could capture them and turn them over to the Winter Witch. Now he realizes how wrong he has been – waiting to kidnap humans and turn them in, when Lucy was innocent and had done him no harm. In fact, the humans are actually part of a larger story of freedom for the land of Narnia. But to hear the rest of that story, you’ll need to read the book, watch the movie or at least listen to the rest of the sermons this Advent and Christmas.
Watching, waiting and preparing for the wrong thing. How often are we caught in that story? We miss the real story – the real significance – because we are either caught up in other things or we are, like Mr. Tumnus, actually preparing for the wrong thing.
I have often thought that this part of the Gospel of Mark – the mini-apocalypse – is a strange place for us to begin our preparation for Christmas. This teaching from Jesus comes right at the end of his public ministry and right before the unfolding of the plot to capture and kill him. Is this any way to prepare for Christmas? Are we in the right story?
If you sit down to read “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” you’ll see that Lewis switches back and forth between two threads in the book – in one chapter we are with one of the children, then the next chapter we switch to the other children – back and forth we go between the stories.
Let’s look again at the parable Jesus tells at the end of chapter 13:
It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. (v. 34)
Then all of a sudden, Jesus interrupts his own parable – see if you notice the shift in the very next verse:
Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ (vv. 35-37)