Famously, when Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy stepped through the wardrobe in the old professor’s house, they entered the fantastic land of Narnia.
It was winter. In fact, Mr. Tumnus, the Faun, said to the children: “It is winter in Narnia, and has been ever so long.”
A bit later, over tea, Mr. Tumnus said to Lucy that it was the White Witch “who makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!”
That little phrase – “always winter and never Christmas” – evocatively describes the captivity of Narnia, and it also gathers up some of our own discouragement and uncertainty.
We know what it is like to live in the chill of a winter that threatens never to end. No hope of spring: the grass will remain brittle and brown, the trees will always be spare and barren, the flowers will never again bud and bloom, and birdsongs will never again float through the air.
Endless winter: the broken relationship that will not mend no matter how hard we try to put it back together, the knotty problem that all our intelligence and sweat can’t seem to untie, the sins we can’t forgive ourselves for, the grief that blinds and deafens us to everything but our losses, the ghost of depression that will not leave us, and the prayers that seem not just unanswered, but unheard.
Always winter and never Christmas. Always the threatening iciness of isolation, never the warm comfort of love. Always laboring under heavy burdens, never dancing with the joy of freedom. Always eating the bread of adversity, never savoring a feast of peace. Always waiting, never arriving. “Always winter and never Christmas.”
But, because of God, it is never “always winter” and never “never Christmas.”
During these weeks of Advent, we’ll remember that God always finds a way through the labyrinths of history and the mazes of circumstance to bring Jesus to life among us.
We’ll rediscover the humility of God, who is like a newborn infant, a peasant carpenter and a dying savior: easy to overlook and disregard, but powerfully present and changing the world.
Joy will rise in our spirits, and hope will flourish in our hearts, as the good news about Jesus transforms “the bleak midwinter” of our souls into Christmas.
A consultant with the Center for Healthy Churches (CHC), he served previously as an assistant professor of religion at Mars Hill University, an adjunct professor at Gardner-Webb Divinity School and as pastor of several Baptist churches.