It seems to me that the Christmas season is not a time of hope, peace, joy, or love – not in the expectant sense of advent promise. C.S. Lewis says that he sent no cards out and gave no presents (except to children) because of the “commercial racket” that is Christmas. In another letter Lewis qualifies the season as a nightmare. Yes, Father Christmas does show up in Narnia to provide needed gifts for the journey, and perhaps Lewis uses this encounter to reclaim some sense about the holiday.It is the commercialization of “the season to be jolly” that discounts the lowliness of the manger and the truth that it should make us low also. Lewis points to this ridicule of the scene in “The Nativity:” “Among the oxen (like an ox I am slow)… Among the asses (stubborn I as they)… Among the sheep (I like sheep have strayed).”
Ridiculous in every way. And because the modern world can’t sell hay they make hay about the production of a holiday wholly centered on humankind (at best) rather than on incarnation – the touching down of God on earth.
Lewis writes about the incarnation in Miracles. He names it as the central miracle, that, “every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this.” In other words, the incarnation is the hinge that open the heavens. And they are opened (or reopened) in a way that completes the myths of old and reimagines the relationship of God to his creation.
Jesus, God incarnate, enters nature in order to reclaim her. God, Lewis says, is part of nature like the corn-king of old and more… “He is not the soul of Nature nor any part of Nature,” Lewis explains, “He inhabits eternity: He dwells in the high and holy place: Heaven is his throne, not His vehicle, earth is His footstool, not His vesture.”
So, the incarnation is God’s claim on us, not ours on him. He is the invader, the thief, the wrestler of Jacobs. “It is not to tell of a human search for God at all, but of something done by God for, to, and about, Man,” Lewis says.
Advent prepares us to encounter The Incarnation and to turn off the noise of the Christmas racket while we point square into the face of God.
by C.S. Lewis
Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length
Give me an ox’s strength.
Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
I see my Savior where I looked for hay;
So may my beast like folly learn at least
The patience of a beast.
Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
Oh that my baaing nature would win thence
Some woolly innocence!