Summary: Using the Narnia story to illuminate scripture, this sermon invites believers to discover the wonder of Christmas by discovering the wonder of God’s plans and purposes, the wonder of God’s love, and the wonder of the continuing story.
Rev. Lin Smalec Salem Church, Waynesboro, PA
DISCOVER THE WONDER
Fourth Sunday of Advent
18 December 2005
The other day while it was snowing, I watched my cat, Phantom, looking out the window. He sat there, barely moving, intently watching the big fluffy snowflakes. Occasionally his ear would twitch, and once he looked around at me with big wide eyes as if to say, “Wow, would you look at that?!” It seemed like he was fascinated, mesmerized, by the wonder of the gently falling snow.
When is the last time you reacted to something with wonder? Do you know what I mean? Wonder is that feeling that takes your breath away, that sense that something is amazing and special and truly awesome. I felt wonder the first time I saw Niagara Falls - it was so unimaginably huge and powerful, all that water pouring down in a thundering never-ending torrent. I felt wonder the day I was ordained to the ministry, when all the pastors present laid hands on me and prayed for me - the feelings of eternal connection and spiritual responsibility and fulfillment of God’s call were overwhelming. The birth of a child, the beauty of nature, the touch of a loved one - all of these can be wonder-filled experiences. When is the last time you felt wonder?
Christmas is a season that is supposed to be filled with wonder - and yet sadly, many of us become so busy working at Christmas that we can’t enjoy it. We spend all our time and energy and money trying to make Christmas perfect -that imaginary perfect Christmas that we think we remember, but that never really existed. In all that work, we miss the wonder of Christmas.
Oh, we might get a tinge of wonder as we watch wide-eyed kids waiting to talk to Santa Claus, or leaving milk and cookies for the big guy on Christmas Eve, with a few carrots for his reindeer. Or we might feel a bit of Christmas wonder when we see a lovely Christmas tree or houses lit up with cheery sparkling lights. We might even feel just a touch of Christmas wonder when we sing old favorite Christmas carols like “O Little Town of Bethlehem” or “Silent Night”.
But when is the last time you felt wonder about the Christmas story itself? We take it for granted, don’t we? We’ve heard it so many times that we don’t truly listen to it anymore. Mary, the young virgin engaged to Joseph, who becomes pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit - “Yeah, yeah”. The angel who tells Mary that her child will be the Son of God and the Savior of all people - “Uh huh”. The birth in the stable, the baby in the manger, the visits of shepherds and wise men while angels sing in the skies above - “Ho hum”, “Been there, done that!”
What has happened to our sense of wonder? One of the things that makes the Chronicles of Narnia so endearing to both children and adults alike is the sense of wonder that the books capture. I think the movie “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” has several scenes that communicate that wonder. When Lucy first enters the snowy world of Narnia, she doesn’t say a word - but the look on her face shows the wonder she is feeling. And later, when all four children push their way through the wardrobe into Narnia, Susan looks around and breathlessly says what I think we would all be thinking - “Impossible!”
Impossible! What an interesting word! It means “incapable of existing or taking place” or “contrary to fact or reality” (1). And you see, that is exactly the problem for us modern people in this twenty-first century. We are people of facts, people of logic, people of knowledge, people of reality. Many of us have lost the ability to feel a sense of wonder. Wonder is for kids, wonder is for fairy tales, wonder isn’t for reasonable, intelligent people!
Ironically, that is the power of story and of fantasy - it breaks through our reasonable, logical minds and opens us up once again to the world of wonder. This is why in this scientific, humanistic age, our culture is drawn to Star Trek and Star Wars and Harry Potter and Narnia. All of these fantasies teach eternal truths, the same basic truths about good and evil, right and wrong, that are taught in our Scriptures. But because they are story and fantasy, they break through our cultural barriers and become real and true for us. They teach in a way that is truly wonder-filled!
Our lives are dull and dreary without wonder. But the wonderful things of the world are not hidden - they are right there, all around us - all we have to do is open our eyes and our hearts to discover the wonder! So as we come to the end of our study of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, I want to look at three areas of wonder that Scripture lifts up and that I think this book illuminates for us.