THROUGH THE WARDROBE INTO WINTER
This past week our creative team met to nail down all the titles for this NARNIA Christmas message series. You can see the title we settled on for today – Through the Wardrobe into Winter. I’m mainly going to talk today about spiritual winter. This succession of major snowstorms we’ve seen this week would seem to make all this perfect timing. Both Monday and Friday this past week I was stuck our in the middle of our state in the throws of winter.
But the winter we are talking about, the winter we see here in THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE is more just a metaphor of a spiritual winter. In fact, it’s really all about the changing of the spiritual climate in a region, or more precisely, in a heart.
It’s a gripping story of four children who wonder through a wardrobe door into the land of NARNIA – a land where it is “always winter but never Christmas.” But let me say, if you are not familiar with the book or the story, its okay because I’ll fill you in on just enough of the story to make sense of each message.
For several reasons we also liked the title: Delivering a Grown Up Story to the Child Within. I’m actually the one who voted against it because typically I’m not a big fiction guy. If it’s not true, why talk about it. But the reason we are going to talk about it is because this isn’t your average story and because it’s going to be a major discussion point this Christmas season.
DISNEY STUDIOS is betting over $180,000,000 that this will become their best-selling movie of all times (100M to make it, 80M on marketing!). Already in the last fifty years, it’s already sold 95 million copies and is translated into 41 languages.
C.S. Lewis was real clear about what he was writing about in his NARNIA series. He said it contains a “story within a story.” A little less than a month before he died, C.S. Lewis wrote a little girl named Ruth what might well serve as a challenge to us today;
If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much can go wrong with you, and I hope that you may always do so. I’m so thankful that you realized the hidden story in the NARNIA books. It is odd, children nearly always do, grown ups hardly ever.
There is a hidden story here – it’s the gospel story.
Lewis masterfully wove in all the major Biblical themes such as sin and evil, faith and hope, sacrifice and a savior, resurrection and redemption. One time a young mother wrote a letter to C.S. Lewis asking his advice because she feared her child had come to love Aslan the lion more than Jesus. Lewis wrote her back ten days later;
Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply things that Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus; and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before.
You see Lewis was unapologetic in making sure people saw Jesus in his story.
And, folks, in a day when TARGET and WALMART and many others are intentionally cutting the word “Christmas” from all their advertising – calling their Christmas trees “holiday trees” - DISNEY needs to be commended for their courage. For there can be no mistake that this is a story based directly on the gospel story and it was surely no accident that is being released in the heart of the Christmas season (any more than it was an accident that the PASSION OF THE CHRIST was released the weeks preceding Palm Sunday and Easter.) It’s all a powerful opportunity again for us tell people about Him.
So this is really a very intentional story w/in a story. It couldn’t be more clear. In 1951, Lewis wrote a letter to a group of fifth graders in Maryland where he stated:
I did not say to myself ‘Let us represent Jesus as he really is in our world by a Lion in Narnia’; I said ‘Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as He became a man in our world, became a lion there, and then imagine what would happen.
So he wrote a powerful story of redemption closely paralleling the Christmas Story and the Cross. The end result of each is this land long frozen in winter is set free.
As Aslan the lion comes closer, things start to thaw – beautiful flowers break through the melting snow - which is precisely what happens to those who let Jesus enter in.
I love Psalm 147:18 in THE MESSAGE: “Then he gives the command and it all melts; he breaths on winter – suddenly its spring!”
How many of you know that winter and summer, spring and fall can be powerful metaphors for our emotional and spiritual lives? When I talk about a “winter of the heart” I don’t have to do a whole lot of explaining.
1) WE CAN ALL IDENTIFY WITH A WINTER OF THE HEART.
King David wrote in Psalm 38:6-10;
I am bowed down and brought very low (faint, deadly cold and quite worn out – AMP)… I groan in anguish of heart. All my longings lie open before you O Lord. My sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails, even the light has gone from my eyes.
This passage is packed full of winter word pictures. There is the winter darkness; there is the visible breath of sighing. Even our longings lay uncovered. Emotionally speaking, there is a word picture in here of one without a warm cloak. The word “groan” we’ll see later in Rom. 8 where “all creation groans” – there is nothing in all creation that can’t identify with the winter of the heart. So I know that you can and do identify.
We’ve had two hard funerals in our church family this past week. With permission I wanted to share with you something Jamie Tabbert’s sister Lisa said at their mom’s funeral on Tuesday. About her mom, Lisa said “Mom hated winter, both literally and metaphorically.” And then she went on to eloquently talk about the disease of depression that ultimately overtook their mom and how her suicide was “a tragic end to an otherwise precious life.” For some, this time of year is very festive. But for many others, it’s a winter of the heart. In fact, another title we nearly settled on for today was the title “The Frozen Heart.”
Maybe you don’t know much of C.S. Lewis’ testimony. He was an atheist. He wrote how he came to Christianity “kicking and screaming.” His mother died when he was seven. The next year his father sent him to boarding school. At age 30 he wrote a letter to a friend which said “I believe in no religion. There is absolutely no proof for any of them.” Yet a change took place in his cold heart when he met a man named J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the LORD OF THE RINGS.
It was through his friendship with Tolkien that Lewis became persuaded that Christ was real. And of the night of his conversion he wrote;
You must picture me alone in that room, night after night, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared has last come upon me. In the third term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. (Surprised by Joy, p. 228-229)
When Lewis decided to follow Jesus, it was like the snow melted from his heart. He came to Christmas, and Christmas came to him.
He began reading the Bible, attending church and helping the poor. For the rest of his life, he donated two-thirds of all his book royalties to the widows whose husbands had died in World War II. He became a blessing to those in life’s winter because he understood life’s winter. He wrote a powerful series of books about a land in spiritual winter because that was the state of his heart before Jesus– cold and in the grip something evil.
2. THE EVIL OF THIS WORLD IS REAL
The reason NARNIA was so cold is because there was a witch in the story – the White Witch. It’s like it says in 1 John 5:19; “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Or 2 Cor. 11:4 where it says “Satan masquerades as an angel of light.” The witch in Narnia is a white witch- tall, thin and beautiful like a fashion model. She calls herself the queen of NARNIA. But she’s not NARNIA’s queen and her whiteness isn’t the whiteness of purity. It’s more the paleness of death. She promises a better life, but her castle is decorated by the stone statues of those who believed her lies or crossed her wicked ways.
Have you ever noticed that most of the world’s greatest stories begin with a great evil? Cinderella had a wicked stepmother and stepsisters. Sleeping Beauty was cursed by a disgruntled old fairy. Hansel and Gretel are driven by starvation to the house of the wicked witch. Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother was killed by the big bad wolf. Snow White had a jealous mother who hired a hit man to kill her daughter. Why is it all these great stories are set in the context of such wickedness/winter?
It’s because, this life is; and we can readily relate – the world isn’t as it should be. There are Saddam’s. There are Osama’s and Al-Qaeda cells. There are cancer cells and there are demons and other dark realities. Depression is real.
The backdrop for THE LION, WITCH AND WARDROBE story was Europe as the Second World War was in full swing. Hitler had a holocaust underway. The four children in the story were sent to the country to escape the daily Nazi air raids on London.
They ended up in on old professors’ large country home. They decided to explore the old home and that’s how they came upon the room with the old wardrobe. And from there Lewis takes us into this whole other world of NARNIA.
Have you ever thought about this?... HARRY POTTER, LORD OF THE RINGS, STAR WARS – in our stories, we are always searching for other worlds. It’s like we know there is something beyond, something better. It’s like we are custom built for more and consequentially we hunger for it.
Hebrews 11:16 says “they were longing for a better country – heavenly one.”
I’m hoping that right now you are each connecting the dots in our own heart. There are people here right now who are longing for a better setting. But I want you to know it’s not about you going there – so don’t check out. It’s about Jesus coming in. Gal. 1:4, in the AMP. BIBLE says Jesus gave his life “in order to rescue and deliver us from this present wicked age and world order.”
3) JESUS IS OUR WAY OUT OF WINTER
In THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, the children go through a wardrobe door into the world of NARNIA. In John 10:10, Jesus talked about himself being the gate or door – the portal into another realm, a better Kingdom. We all know the real Christmas story starts with a land locked in spiritual winter.
Pastor Dennis read it earlier in Is. 9:1-7;
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulan and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned… for unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
The New Testament uses similar metaphors.
In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul is talking about our present sufferings and the pathway out. He wrote how:
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hopes that the creation itself will be liberated from bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning… right up to the present time… Romans 8:18-22
“Right up to the present time” is talking about today. The word “groaning” speaks of the fact that each of us today was created to hunger for another world.
The good news today is that hunger can be satisfied. Jesus is the way out of life’s winter. He’s our portal into this greater realm – this new Kingdom. He’s the gate, he’s the guide. In the world of NARNIA – Aslan, the Son of the Emporer returns and brings with him Spring! Even more importantly, he breaths life back to those who the White Witch turned into stone. The spell breaks. The climate changes. The season shifts from winter to spring.
I started out this message talking about our dilemma in titling this message. Obviously, we settled on “THROUGH THE WARDROBE INTO WINTER,” but there is one reason it’s still not my favorite. The reason is because the gospel is not so much about us finding a way into winter. The gospel is more about us discovering a passageway into the promised life – into the warmth of the embrace of God.
My prayer is that God will use this NARNIA movie to reach a lot of people with his love. It’s an opportunity that is being set right in your lap. You know people who need this message and this is the week to invite them to this movie. The door will be wide open for you to lead them from a discussion of Aslan to an encounter with Jesus. And I’d be amiss here if I didn’t do the same.
I know there are people here who can relate to all this talk of the winter of the heart. Even now there is this unexplainable longing inside you for this one who brings SPRING. I want you to listen to the invitation in his words. In the last book of the Bible Jesus said;
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and him with me.
Before us today we have a table set – the meal is symbolic of his death on the cross.
If you want to invite Christ to come into your heart and life, there is no better way to do it than by joining us in the Lord’s Supper. Before we ingest these powerful symbols as a way of saying; Yes, Lord come into my life… I invite you to pray this prayer;
Lord Jesus, thank you for entering our winter-like world and bringing the warmth of God’s love. I understand that your sacrifice on the cross broke evil’s curse over the earth and over every heart including mine. Come now into my cold heart and by your Spirit breath life into me. Melt all my sin away into the flow of your forgiveness. You are my Savior and King! You are my Lord and I covenant to follow you every day, every where – heed every Word and bow before you alone. Come alive in me I pray!!!