The Christmas Story: The King is on the Move
Posted by Melissa
Merry Christmas to everyone from us at Lantern Hollow Press!
Today is a day of traditions in which each of us with our families and friends celebrate this day in whatever way we love most. In my experience, Christmas is the cheeriest of holidays, and the undercurrent of joy (be it from the presents or, one hopes, from a much deeper source) lends such a lovely atmosphere to the festivities.
I’m a huge fan of traditions. The familiarity and camaraderie of taking part in a family tradition is part of what makes the holiday so special. My family normally enjoys a spread of specially made Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve while traditional carols play. We often watch a Christmas movie or two before going to bed. Most people seem to have a favorite Christmas film or book. Often it’s a funny one; sometimes it’s a sweet one; other times it’s a solemn one. My family swings pretty far in both directions. We might watch The Grinch or we might watch The Nativity. It depends on the mood, really. My friend and I have a tradition of watching the strange and fantastic Hogfather, which involves Death taking over for the Santa figure when he goes missing. It’s… much more festive than it sounds.
I have to say, though, that my favorite Christmas story and film of late has been The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Perhaps this is somewhat unconventional. To me, though, it is the perfect Christmas book and movie, and not just because of my slightly obsessive fixation with the idea of finding a magical land in the back of my wardrobe (although I haven’t given up on that just yet).
Anyone who has read the book or seen the film knows that there are some obvious associations with Christmas that can be made in this story. The children stumble through a wardrobe’s back into a winter wonderland. Later on in the story, they meet Father Christmas himself and receive gifts. It has a Christmasy feeling to it for a good portion of the story. As the story goes on, though, the snow melts, the lion appears, and we see an enactment of the Easter story. So is this more a Christmas story or an Easter one?
As far as I am concerned, they are the same story. The Advent heralds the arrival of Christ, our Saviour. His coming is defined not just as the Incarnation of God in Man, but as a mission of salvation. The Easter story is tied to the Advent and when we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating them both.
And so, to me, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the perfect Christmas story. It reflects Christ’s coming in its entirety, the celebration of His arrival along with the powerful and ultimate sacrifice that He makes on our behalf. It is all wrapped into one great tale.
When we celebrate Christmas, we are often struck by the profound mystery of Christ born as an infant. An infinite God is contained in the most helpless of human forms. This is something that Lewis’s first Narnia book lacks. Aslan comes as a great and majestic lion, fully grown, a mighty and terrifying presence ready for battle against the enemy. This is not the babe in the manger that we so often see in nativity scenes.
Despite this, or even because of it, Aslan is still a powerful representation of the coming of Christ because the great lion represents the drama and awe of the Incarnation rather than its literal enactment. We see in the lion what the Advent means: the King has come. Just as Christ’s coming was prophesied for centuries, when whispers of Aslan’s arrival begin to spread, there is a breathless tremble of fear and joy. His return heralds salvation. He comes to ransom a captive nation who longingly awaits his arrival.
This is so wonderfully carried out in Lewis’s book through the imagery of winter’s spell breaking before the lion. Aslan is on the move. The world itself is reborn before him in a beautiful portrayal of redemption. His presence has a massive impact from the moment that he comes. This reflects the infinitely more lovely and awesome arrival of Christ, even as an infant, and what that means for our fallen world. Nothing less than a heavenly choir celebrated His coming and while His surroundings were lowly and simple, there is nothing simple or lowly about the Incarnate Word moving within time and space. G.K. Chesterton’s poem Gloria in Profundis focuses on this mighty “fall” of God to earth, how He lowers Himself and through that lowering, demonstrates His power all the more.
There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
At Bethlehem, the angels sang “good will to those on whom His favor rests.” We who love Christ know that while He is not “safe”, He is “good,” and so if we are on His side, His coming is not a source of terror, but awe. His enemies have no such comfort. They know that the Lion is neither safe nor tame and His coming is something to fear. The lion Aslan so effectively represents what Christ’s coming means because he is shown as someone to be both feared and loved. He is so utterly gentle and loving toward the children, even Edmund (or perhaps especially Edmund), but it is impossible to forget that this is a lion and a king and even the White Witch trembled before him.
When Aslan moved, the children in Narnia saw snow melting and flowers blooming; the witch saw her impending destruction.
When Christ was born, the shepherds heard angels sing and a baby cry; the devil heard a lion’s roar.
Sometimes we forget how unbearably awesome this story is that we are celebrating at Christmas. Lucy says in The Last Battle that “a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” How do we even begin to comprehend this? This is a story worth telling a thousand times over in a thousand different ways, a story of evil and hopelessness and the quiet and glorious coming of light, a story in which a hero’s sacrifice saves millions. As ever-aspiring subcreators, we try to tell this story over and over again without ever coming close to doing it justice. C.S. Lewis’s retelling is a fantasy and it is not meant to be a straightforward allegory, but it captures the essence of what makes the Advent extraordinary — the coming of a King, who is limitless in being and might, into the lowliest and most limiting of circumstances in order to fight a battle for us that we could never hope to win. And win, He did.
Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.
~ G.K. Chesterton
About Melissagenerally in love with things Celtic, mythological, fantastic, sharp and pointy, cute and fuzzy, intellectual, snarky, cheerful, or some combination thereof. Such things as sarcastic bunnies wielding claymores might come to mind...
Posted on December 25, 2013, in Authors, C. S. Lewis, Christianity, Christmas, Fantasy, Film, Holidays, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Meditations, Melissa Rogers, Movie Reviews, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and tagged Advent, Aslan, best christmas film, Christmas, G.K. Chesterton, holiday, lion witch wardrobe. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.