Each Thursday in Advent, we will run an excerpt from the book Advent in Narnia: Reflections for the Season (Westminister John Knox Press, 2015) by Heidi Haverkamp. Read last week’s excerpt, which is titled “The Lamppost.”
He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 18:2–3
If we can’t become like children in Advent, there may be no hope for us! Advent is one of the times of year when there is permission for adults to “play”: decorating our homes, wearing colorful or goofy clothes, and reliving childhood holiday traditions. Even if our childhood holidays were unhappy, there are many ways to have the faith of a child in Advent. Advent wreaths, light displays, Christmas trees, nativity sets, cookie baking, or Secret Santa gift exchanges are all opportunities for the child within us to relearn the story of the birth of Christ through play and imagination.
My husband and I have no children, and we knew Christmas wouldn’t be as fun unless we created special traditions of our own. I began collecting ornaments for a Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is a bare branch hung with symbols of stories from the Old Testament, creating a family “tree” for Mary, Joseph, and the Christ Child—a Christmas tree prequel! The name is from Isaiah, “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, / and a branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isa. 11:1). A Jesse Tree deepens my experience of Advent with play and Scripture. Each day I read a passage that reminds me of the long story of salvation leading to the birth of Jesus and hang a tiny ornament, like a globe (Creation), a well (Hagar in the desert), or a whale (Jonah).
Paraphrasing St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, C. S. Lewis wrote in an essay: “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” The Narnia Chronicles and the season of Advent are opportunities for adults—including adults without children—to encounter faith, God, and the story of salvation in Christ through the eyes of children, whether it’s in the magical wardrobe and talking animals of Narnia, a Christmas pageant, a nativity set, or a Jesse Tree.
Questions for Reflection
- What do you think Jesus means by “become like children”?
- What “childish” activities do you especially enjoy during Advent? If you haven’t been in the habit of any such activities, which seem as if they would be fun to try, either this year or next?
- C. S. Lewis also wrote, “Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary. He told us to be not only ‘as harmless as doves’, but also ‘as wise as serpents’. He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head.” What are some ways you can balance a “child’s heart” and a “grown-up’s head”? Do you think Lewis succeeds in balancing the two in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Why or why not?
From Advent in Narnia: Reflections for the Season. © 2015 Heidi Haverkamp. Used by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.