Many of us are familiar with the story of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, four children evacuated from London in the 2nd World War, who are given lodging in an old house in the country belonging to an eccentric professor. On a rainy day, confined to the house, they set about exploring the corridors and rooms of this country mansion. Finally they stumble into a room that is quite empty except for one big wardrobe. Lucy, on entering the wardrobe, finds herself in a cold and snowy land in which it is “always winter and never Christmas”.
In her encounters with the inhabitants of Narnia, Lucy learns the story of this fascinating land. The true king of Narnia is a great lion named Aslan, who has been absent for many years now, but who is now “on the move again”. Edmund also enters Narnia but he learns a very different story about this land. He hears the story from the White Witch, who presents herself as the true and lawful ruler of the land. Who is to be believed? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a tale about how these characters are tested just as their stories are also put to the test.
In order to make right judgments, the children need to learn to trust the true over-arching story of Aslan, and in time they need to meet Him and to learn to trust His love and wisdom for their lives. As they do this they find that in this strange world into which they have stumbled, like it or not, they are destined to play a significant role.
Lewis’ imaginary world of Narnia is a world of supposition. In effect, Lewis is asking us to imagine what it would be like if the Son of God were to enter a world like Narnia. As He became a man in our world, He becomes a lion in the world of Narnia; now imagine how the story would unfold… As we read the Chronicles of Narnia, we are called to reflect on how C.S. Lewis’ imaginary world helps us to understand our own.
As the impact of the Church has declined in our country, the over-arching story of the love of God shown to us in Jesus Christ is more in the background than it has been in previous decades. If Aslan is the answer to the problem of it being “always winter and never Christmas”, I wonder whether we might see our world in similar terms? Just as the Beavers of Narnia kept the faith, and kept telling the story of Aslan, so there are churches today that are still confident of Jesus’ ability to bring a thaw in the conditions. As our Church grows, and new people respond to the love of God, we have seen a lot of the snow already melted. Just
as the creatures of Narnia began to understand that Aslan was on the move again, so in our world we sense that Jesus is bringing a fresh move of His Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus is on the move again!
Just as Lucy and Edmund were tested, so this life tests our character, and all of us are found wanting at some time or other. And what of the stories that Lucy and Edmund want to tell about Narnia? Edmund has been bewitched into thinking that Aslan is not the answer to Narnia’s woes, and he has to be won back from the clutches of the White Witch, something that can only be accomplished by Aslan’s death on the stone table.
Edmund has a threshold to pass through, and in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ‘thresholds that take us into another world’ is a central theme in the book. Pushing through the fur coats to the back of the wardrobe can transport us to Narnia, but Aslan himself becomes another kind of threshold. Nothing but Aslan’s death, it transpires, can take Edmund from legally being bound to the White Witch to being a child of the King of Narnia. Edmund reaches the point when he sees the White Witch’s story as a pack of lies, and he is desperate to change his allegiance over to Aslan, but what it costs Aslan to enable him to cross over, comes as a surprise to him.
I think it comes as a surprise to us too, to find that it takes Jesus’ death for us to cross over into His Kingdom. When we put our faith in Jesus’ death and pledge ourselves to follow Him alone, we find this step of faith truly takes us to another world where we can see much more clearly the Aslan/White Witch divide, and can more keenly sense that Aslan(Jesus) is on the move.
Just as C.S. Lewis’ Narnia has the capacity to re-enchant a dis-enchanted world, entering over the threshold of faith makes each of us a new creation and opens our eyes to the wonderful plans Jesus has for the part we are to play in this world. Would you like to take that step? A prayer that asks forgiveness for the past, pledges your life to follow Jesus and make him your lord, and asks him to come and live in you by His Holy Spirit, is what it takes. Then join a lively church and tell the church leader you’ve just prayed that prayer.
Just as the children in the story find that they have a special role to play in Narnia – once a King or Queen in Narnia, always a King or Queen in Narnia – so Jesus calls us to a significant role in how the story of His world unfolds…
The Chronicles of Narnia are wonderful. They resonate strongly with our basic human intuition – telling us that our own story is part of something grander.