The Long Winter
“The White Witch? Who is she?” [said Lucy]
“Why, it is she that has got all Narnia under her thumb. It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!” [replied Mr. Tumnus]
These words from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe might lose some force here in our little paradise because none of us trek through snow and ice as we go about our usual business. I ask, then, that you close your eyes and imagine yourself for a moment in the world Lewis describes as the story leads up to Mr. Tumnus’ admission to Lucy. Under the rule of the White Witch, Narnia is a winter wonderland laden with a thick blanket of perfectly white snow. Standing in the forest, the landscape is illuminated by a solitary lamppost. As the snowflakes cascade to the ground, they are washed in the yellowish hue of the lamp’s light, granting everything an antiqued appearance. It is all kinds of magical, but everyone might not like the idea of living their life under such circumstances. For those of us that are more practically minded, such a world presents many annoying obstacles to overcome. The annoyance of having to navigate the yearly plunge into winter’s icy grip might be lessened by the festive warmth of Christmas, however. But Mr. Tumnus’ words are so poignant because Narnia cannot look forward to Christmas amid the cold winter’s night. Narnia is being forced by the White Witch’s spell to endure a perpetual longing without hope of satisfaction. Tumnus’ words are words of despair, and they call us to test our hopes and desires in a time of longing.
As I have reflected on this past year, the introduction of COVID-19 into the world is without question one of the defining aspects of 2020. The impact of COVID-19 is difficult to minimize, and it has resulted in many of us asking such questions as “Will things ever be the same, or has the world been changed forever?” Compared to 2019, our lives and activities feel limited and more difficult. COVID has seemingly plunged us into a blizzard-like viral ice-age where humanity is being forced to adapt to the harsh new realities that have set in upon us. And though we have longed for this COVID-winter to pass, the season rolls on and on. We have all endured hardships – losing loved ones to the virus, threats to our health, businesses suffering losses or even shutting down, isolation from friends and family, communities being eroded, distortions in work-life balance – and we all wonder when it will end. We might even wonder if we are losing all that has given worth to our lives in the past and if there is any hope in ever getting them back.
It is here that I have been challenged personally, and where I hope to challenge you in this last blog post before Christmas Break. We are presently in the season of Advent, which encompasses the four weeks leading up to the celebration of Christmas. Advent is a period where Christians are encouraged to reflect on how the birth of Christ was truly the satisfaction of the longings for Jew and Gentile alike. The Gospels are clear that neither Jew nor Gentile immediately understood how Christ fulfilled their desires, but we know that his life, death, and resurrection served to make reconciliation between mankind and God possible. Our deepest longings cannot be satisfied by anything other than God, so it is through Christ alone that we can finally have our eternal hope fulfilled. With that thought in mind and as we continue to endure and adapt to the circumstances that COVID has brought into our lives, I challenge you to see the good that God is allowing in our lives through such circumstances as we have faced throughout 2020. Yes, we have all faced difficulties and stresses that are very real in 2020. But we are also being reminded that the things of this world cannot last forever and that the things of this world cannot give us ultimate satisfaction because ultimate satisfaction must be eternal. My challenge does not remove the difficulties, but I pray that it can help us all to lift our eyes from those difficulties and raise them to Christ, to lift our eyes from despair and raise them to hope.
In conclusion, I find it very fitting that I am writing this post during the season of Advent. I opened this post with a quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe about the power of the White Witch to make it always winter and never Christmas because that is what it may feel like to many of us right now: we are enduring the long COVID winter, and we have questions about whether Christmas Day – when our lives are set right again - will arrive. Again, take heart. As I mentioned above, Advent is the period that precedes Christmas here in the real world, and we have one week left of Advent before Christmas day arrives. In this final week, dwell on how God proved Himself faithful to His promises 2000 years ago. God did not satisfy the worldly hopes of the Jews and Gentiles at that time, but He did make the satisfaction of eternal hope possible. When Christmas morning arrives, rejoice in what the birth of Christ means for us, and take heart in knowing that He has promised all will ultimately be set right. Christmas Day will arrive, and the winter will end.
Grace and peace,