While everyone else sings It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year, Advent seems to be the season where stodgy Lutherans list off all the things we refuse to acknowledge. No, you’re not allowed to sing Christmas hymns yet. I don’t care if there’s a nativity outside the church. Stop. Whatever you do, don’t mention rotund men in crimson crushed velvet or animals with illuminated noses without a trigger warning for your pastor.
Christians always have a habit of holding myths and stories at arm’s length. It gets worse in December, even though the only people not excited for the new Star Wars movie are wrong. Just wrong.
It used to be we were a little nervous around wizards named Harry. Before that, it was lions named Aslan. Oddly enough, both tell very Christian stories about salvation through death and resurrection. I wonder if we’re just trying to keep a firm handle on reality because reality already seems so farfetched. Advent in its proper sense only highlights it. Advent is the season of the church year where we celebrate a God who shows up for His people. The problem is, He always seems to do it in farfetched ways.
A child born of a virgin? He said He was going to return in glory very soon…2000 years ago? You mean that’s actually the very same body and blood of the very same Jesus that died on the cross for me in that piece of cardboard you keep calling bread and the bottom shelf wine? It’s easy to doubt a God like that in a world like this.
That’s actually why CS Lewis gave us the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He said, “Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”
Despite all the pretty lights, the world already looks pretty dark. Jesus points it out to us. The Advent readings tell us about nations in distress and people fainting with foreboding over what the world is coming to. They tell us about John the Baptist, stuck in prison, shaken, afraid, and doubting whether or not he made a huge mistake throwing in with Jesus. They tell us of a Jesus who calls His people to lift up their heads. Be not afraid. He promises us our redemption draws near. But I don’t see it. It’s honestly as easy to dismiss as snowmen with magic hats and corncob pipes.
CS Lewis was right, but according to Jesus, he was too late. We already believe in dragons. The problem is we’ve forgotten how to believe in knights. All our heroes are tragic, our leaders are villains, and our idols are idolaters. Hold up a picture of someone famous and we’ll find commandments broken a lot more often than virtues to be lauded.
We’re holding out for a hero, but we’re afraid to talk about them in Christian circles because we know they aren’t real. Everyone’s a sinner. There is no Hogwarts. Lions don’t talk. I wonder if we’re afraid kids might accidentally lump Jesus in with the fiction section and accidentally throw Him out with the idea that fae creatures will trade US currency for your baby teeth.
It’s scary, but Advent isn’t the season to talk about less. It’s the season that acknowledges just how awful we sinners have made this world and lifts up our heads to a God who loves us so much He’s unwilling to stand back from us in our need. Advent rejoices in all the ways God comes to us to help, save, and comfort. Jolly old St. Nicolas of Myra will ear-punch anyone who says otherwise. Seriously. Advent is the season of knights and heroes.
Advent is for John the Baptist to make straight the way of the Lord so boldly it will land him in jail. John is a hero, even if he is a sinner who eats weird food. He is not the Christ, but there is one coming after him who is. He is the scaffolding that is removed when the building is completed. He prepares the way.
The Lamb of God is coming to take away the sin of the world. Jesus took flesh to save. He is the true knight, born of a virgin to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. The Son of God slays the old dragon by sacrificing Himself on the cross for you. Advent promises Christ will return to bring us out of this mess and into the glories of the life to come.
When people confused John for Jesus, he told them the truth. There is someone greater. There is a bigger picture. Tell stories of heroes, even if they are myths. Let them be scaffolding that holds up greater truths. There is a true hero, a crucified and risen knight who vanquished the devil. Let the heroes of myth fall away to show the truth of the savior.
Jesus says this world will pass away too. God will come again in glory on the last day. When he does, the scaffolding of this world will crumble and we will finally see what God was building all along. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. When God Advents, we see it.
Do we look foolish telling myths to our kids at home and then sitting them in front of a pulpit to hear Jesus preached to them? Only to a world that thinks He’s a myth too. Do it anyway. See them as shadows of a greater picture yet to be fully seen, and lift up your heads. Know that you have a hero who has already fought for you. He will come again to save you from a world falling apart. And even now, He’s here to rescue you. He comes in body and blood under bread and wine for you. Eat. Drink. Your redemption Advents. Your hero comes to save you.