By Rev. Samuel Schuldheisz
C.S. Lewis’ world of Narnia is as well known–dare we say, lionized–for its vivid, Biblical imagery as it is for its infectiously loveable characters. Instantly, the Pevensies and Puddleglum, Rumblebuffin and Reepicheep, Mr. Tumnus, and yes, even Eustace Scrubb, come to mind. From Aslan to Z, Narnia’s beloved creatures draw the reader further up and further into this magical world, time and time again.
That is the sheer delight of reading The Chronicles of Narnia. There is always more–more adventure, more to fill our imaginations, more to point us to Jesus. Narnia is a land of abundance because Aslan, the King of Narnia, is an abundant king. Narnia is nothing without him and everything with him. He is the heart and soul of Narnia.
And the one thing that ties all the adventure and imagination together is joy. The Chronicles are full of Christian joy, especially in the triumphant conclusion, The Last Battle. No matter what order you read The Chronicles, The Last Battle must be read last, for every good fairy tale ought to end with “happily-ever-after.” You can’t understand the end of the play until you have seen the whole thing all the way through. Like the book of Revelation, The Last Battle takes us to the end, where the story is just getting started. There’s always more.
From the beginning, in The Magician’s Nephew, joy resounds in the void as Aslan sings Narnia into existence. His word is action: “Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters.”
And so it goes for the rest of the Narnian tales. Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy Pevensie discover this joy upon entering the wardrobe. The old Narnians shout in triumph upon Aslan’s return as he restores Prince Caspian to his rightful throne. Reepicheep, the valiant mouse, longs to reach the shores of Aslan’s country. For wherever Aslan is present, there is joy–something he constantly shares with those who least expect or deserve it. From beginning to end, Narnia is full of joy.
“That sounds great and all,” you say. “But I don’t live in Narnia. I live in a nightmare world, with real villains: sin, death and the devil. Life is anything but magical.” We often find Aslan’s words to Lucy echoing in our ears: “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”
Although Narnia is a fictional world, it has a great deal to say about this world. For, as Aslan tells the children in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, “This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” When at last the children leave Narnia, a little bit of the “magic” always follows along. No one ever leaves Narnia the same as when they first arrived. So it is for the reader. The book is over. Life goes on. The reader may leave Narnia but Narnia has not left the reader. Aslan pounces and beckons you to true joy in Christ.
When life’s villains overwhelm us, we find ourselves longing to escape this terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-dead-as-sin world in hopes of finding a new world–a world where joy is more than a glimpse. A world without tears, pain, sin and death, a new creation. Even though we are plagued by the devil’s temptations and the frailty of our sinful flesh in this world, that world is already yours in Christ. Rejoice! You are baptized. You belong to Christ. Your temptation? Overcome. Your suffering? Endured. Your death? Defeated. Wherever Jesus is present, there is joy–joy in the forgiveness won by Christ. All you need is water, bread and wine; Jesus’ life-giving Word does all the sin-forgiving work.
That’s how it is with Jesus. There’s always more. More forgiveness. More life. More joy. Narnia draws us out of the wardrobe and into the true joy of the Gospel, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). Now there’s Good News for all our real-world problems. The pages of Narnia point us to a reality bigger than Narnia itself–a joy greater than our sorrows. Weep no more, for the Lion of the Tribe of Judah has conquered by his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. Jesus is the King of abundance. We are nothing without Christ and everything with him. Jesus is the heart and soul of his bride, the Church.
“This joy,” says Lewis, “is the serious business of heaven.” Thankfully, Christ’s joyous presence isn’t stuck in heaven; Jesus brings heaven’s joy to earth in the Divine Service. God inscribes his Name upon your forehead and heart: baptized and redeemed by Christ Crucified. Jesus’ verdict of the Last Day trumpets from your pastor’s mouth: “You are forgiven.” Christ feeds you with His Body and Blood and you join the saints in heaven and earth singing, “Holy, holy, holy.”
Heaven’s mirth is reflected here on earth below. Literature mirrors life. Christ’s unceasing joy is the serious business of Narnia and all Christians, for your names are inked with blood in the Lamb’s book of life, the Greatest Story ever told–which goes on forever and in which every chapter is better than the one before. And that is no fairy tale.
Rev. Samuel Schuldheisz lives in the shire of southern California known as Huntington Beach where it is always summer and never winter. He serves Redeemer Lutheran as associate pastor and is blessed with a beautiful wife, Natasha, and daughter, Zoe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.