Imagine that you have been cold for a very long time, as long as you can remember. You are in a snowy landscape, but this is not the pleasant kind of snow of a Thomas Kincade painting, where hot cocoa and biscuits beckon from a thatched cottage. This is the frigid, relentless white of a tundra, and you have been plying it for miles, passenger on a sledge commandeered by a white witch.
If there is a book in your house called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, you may read a longer version of this miserable journey from the start of chapter 11.
On the joyless ride is Edmund, a character whom Mr. Beaver said brought to mind the word treacherous the minute he laid eyes on him, but a character that you are feeling sorry for-in other words, someone like you and me. Edmund notices that he is feeling much less cold. Then he notices a curious and unaccustomed noise, a "strange, sweet, rustling, chattering noise" (don't you love the word "chattering" here?), which he identifies as the sound of running water: "bubbly, splashy, even (in the distance) roaring . . . a drip-drip-drip from the branches of all the trees."
We can pass over the rest about the more delicious sounds to come-of "chirruping" birds, first singly and then as of a whole forest awaking-because by now you know what's happening. The sledge is stalling and sticking, the witch is calling down oaths, and green patches of spongy spring grass are popping out all over.
Aslan is near, that's the reason. His breath warms the sin-cursed ground, thaws the icicles around relationships, and ends indentured servitude to the witch we loved for Turkish delight. A lifelong winter that was never Christmas melts into first Christmas.
Mr. Beaver breaks into his Magnificat:
Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.
But is this really true, or just a tale for children? (Like the jaded dwarfs, you refuse to be taken in.) Are sorrows truly no more after God's incarnation? Is your work really freed from futility and frustration? Are your relationships so sanctified? Have you seen an end to enslaving idols and cravings for Turkish delight? Or is this pie in the sky by and by?
Let us survey the evidences:
You're still short-tempered-but a couple of times last month you said you were sorry.
Your marriage has had its peaks and vales, but you are still together.
You sin every day, but you don't find it pleasant anymore; you're not blasé about it anymore. You wish you could change.
One thought in 10 in your head is a thought of gratitude-but that's way up from zero.
You recently wrecked a relationship, big time. But you went back and tried to make it right. Feebly, timidly, awkwardly. But in the old days you wouldn't have even done that.
The first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning is still "&*%$#, it's Monday." But at least the ninth or 10th thing on your mind nowadays is the goodness of God.
You used to spend 15 minutes obsessing to every one minute praying, but now the proportions are beginning to reverse.
As time goes by, the things of earth seem thinner and the things of heaven seem more concrete.
Sorrows abound, but comforts more abound. And these are less and less the comforts of escapism but those of reality-the soon and certain return of the King.
For Christ has come indeed. But you live in the in-between time, where old age and new age overlap, and things are messy. The Lion is come-yea, is sacrificed on the stone table-but the book has several chapters in it yet. This is a mop-up operation but not a chimera; the skirmishes are real. Let us lay hold of Christmas, then, seizing the day and its power "until the day dawns and the morning star rises" with all the confidence of spring.