In the beginning…
Most years when we get to the season of Advent, we dive deep into the gospel texts. We want to hear about the shepherds and angels, about Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, the magi and the star.
Yet, as Heidi Haverkamp will share with us in this week’s reflections in her book “Advent in Narnia”, the medieval church also focused on Adam and Eve.
They went all the way back to the beginning to remember who we are and why God needed to come to redeem us. December 24th was the feast day of Adam and Eve… a time to rehearse once again the story of the creation and the fall.
And that tradition continued in the seasonal Lessons and Carols of Kings College… which will be presented next Sunday at Simpson College. There, too, the story of love and light begins where it should… in the beginning.
In the first chapters of the book of Genesis, we find out who we are. We were created by God. We were created for relationship and to care for this world. And having been given the world, we want more, we desire more, we test our boundaries and more often than not… we cross them.
This is the human condition. It is our story.
And so maybe it is not so surprising that when the Pevensie children stumble into Narnia and the magical creatures of the land discover these humans, they are called the “Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve”.
They, and we, are full of goodness and knowledge and love.
Last week, we met Lucy, the youngest child whose heart is full of longing and hope. Her love was so strong that it cut through the fear of Mr. Tumnus and helped to transform his life.
The prophecies of Narnia talk about how these four children will bring hope to the land and break the power of the White Witch…
But they, and we, are also full of temptation, mistakes, and sin.
The next child who makes his way into the wardrobe has a much different experience.
Edmund is the next youngest and he often feels left out and unappreciated. He is jealous and hurt and when he finds himself in Narnia the first to cross his path is the White Witch.
We find in their encounter a parallel to our story in Genesis chapter 3 this morning.
First, there is this figure that is on the edges of our main characters story… a figure that at first seems completely neutral.
On the one hand, we have the serpent, the craftiest and most intelligent of all the creatures who strikes up a conversation with Eve. The serpent asks questions, raises intrigue, and starts Eve wandering about that tree in the middle of the garden.
The White Witch is beautiful, arrives on a sleigh and plies Edmund with warm beverages and questions. She invites him up onto her sleigh and tempts him with his favorite treat: Turkish Delight.
Both are lured in by what is pleasing to the eye and good to eat…
But even more than that, they are both lured by the possibility of what might away it they say yes.
Eve is told by the serpent that she will not die as she supposes, but she will become like God – knowing good and evil. All of creation is at her fingertips, and yet she longs for the one thing that has not been given to her. She is not satisfied with the blessings that surround her.
Edmund is likewise tempted by power… and a life apart from his siblings. “It is a lovely place, my house,” said the Queen. “I’m sure you would like it. There are whole rooms of Turkish Delight…. I want a nice boy whom I could bring up as a Prince and who would be King of Narnia when I’m gone.” As the youngest son, he glimpses in this offer approval and power, love and prestige… to finally have the chance to lord it over his brothers and sisters.
Overcome by the temptation, he agrees to lure his siblings to the palace.
And like Adam and Eve, as soon as Edmund is away from the witch and realizes what he has done, he begins to be filled with shame.
He encounters Lucy in the woods, who tells him the truth about the White Witch and he begins to feel sick to his stomach… That, and he ate too much Turkish Delight.
As we continue our story over the coming weeks, we will experience Edmund’s journey. He will make more mistakes.
Like any good Christmas movie, there has to be a bad guy… a Scrooge, a spinster, a grouch…
But eventually Edmund will experience mercy and forgiveness, life and love. The delight of a Hallmark Christmas move is to watch that characters life turn around. Scrooge finds his generosity. The Grinch’s heart grows. A prodigal son returns home.
We are the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve. We have an infinite capacity for good and for evil residing in our souls.
Maybe that is why some of our most popular Christmas songs ask us to reflect upon the state of our souls.
“He’s making a list and checking it twice, Gonna find out whose naughty and nice….
He sees you when you’re sleepin’ He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good… so be good for goodness sake.”
The truth is, we are both.
We are simultaneously sinners and saints.
Our lives are full of mistakes and missteps, but also acts of kindness and generosity.
We are tempted by the glitz and glam and our comfort zones, but occasionally find our way out to be in real relationship with people who are struggling.
The reality of our souls is not as simple as making a list of who is good and who is bad.
And the good news is that while we were yet sinners… while we were still weak… while we are this complicated jumble of goodness and evil… God entered our lives to redeem all of the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve
As we sing in “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” we yearn for the Christ Child to be born in our midst to cast out the sin of our lives. We yearn for new life, for joy, for an end to the tears and the loneliness and the pain.
This season is about transformation and embracing what is good and holy and pure… letting go of the past that has haunted us.
God has come to offer us mercy and forgiveness and life abundant.
Thanks be to God.