My Psalm Website
Some of My Books: Click on book for more info
My Da Vinci Code Series
in categories . . .
Professor Blogs
Theologica Blogs
Resources for Leaders
Resources for Worship Leaders
Mark's Church
Visitors so far:
A Resource by Mark D. Roberts

Archive for November-December 2005

Note: This archive contains all of my posts for this month that are not included in some other series. I really don't have the time to save things in more than one place. If you're looking for a specific item, use the "Search" button in the upper left hand corner. Thanks.

by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts

Copyright © 2005 by Mark D. Roberts

Note: You may download this resource at no cost, for personal use or for use in a Christian ministry, as long as you are not publishing it for sale. All I ask is that you give credit where credit is due. For all other uses, please contact me at Thank you.

Thanksgiving A Little Early
Posted for Sunday, November 6, 2005

This last Thursday I performed a memorial service for one of the finest members of my church, Betty Fager. She was well into her 80's when she died, having struggled for the last few months with a number of debilitating health challenges.

When I first came to Irvine Presbyterian Church in 1991, Betty was on the Session (leadership board of the church). She was a person of few words in the business meetings, but her words were always well chosen and well worth listening to.

Only once did she and I have a bit of a disagreement, though even that wasn't nasty. As a pastor, I have to declare my projected housing costs for the year to my Session. They do not have to verify the truth of my numbers, but they do have to approve them so the numbers can be recoreded in our official minutes. Early in 1992 I projected my housing costs (including mortgage, taxes, utilities, repairs, a new roof, etc.) at $32,000. (If I remember correctly, I actually underestimated the cost of the roof, and our expenses exceeded my projections.) Given the high cost of living in Irvine, $32,000 was a reasonable projection. But for Betty it seemed astronomical. My guess is that her home, which was quite nice, had cost around $32,000 when she and her husband purchased it in 1975. It might even have been cheaper than that. So, though houses were about ten times as much in 1991, Betty hadn't been following the trends. Here was her pastor, claiming as housing costs a figure that, to Betty, seemed five to ten times too high. She'd ask, "Are you sure it's that much?" To which I'd respond, "Yes, I'm afraid so." "Are you sure, Mark? I just can't believe it." You could see her mind spinning, as she tried to balance her version of reality with her desire to believe that her pastor wasn't a dirty rotten liar. Finally, Betty said decisively, "Well, then, I believe you. But I think it's just terrible that it costs you so much to live here!" (Amen to that!)

At Betty's memorial service I said that she had been more verbally affirming to me than any other member of the church. That's really saying something, because my members are not stingy with their appreciation (not most of them, anyway). Yet virtually every Sunday after church, Betty would make a point to say to me something like, "Oh, Mark, wasn't that service just wonderful. I am so thankful for . . . ." Sometimes it was the choir; sometimes the sermon; sometimes the involvement of children. Even when we did something in worship that wasn't quite Betty's cup of tea, like bring in a rock band, she always found a way to be affirming.

Betty Fager was filled with gratitude to God and she didn't keep it to herself. She had a rich and full life, with a beloved husband of over 50 years, and two fine daughters and their families. Yet Betty's life wasn't without difficulties. Her husband, Dick, died in 1998, and I'll bet that Betty missed him every day of her last seven years. She struggled with the challenges of failing health, especially in the last couple of years. But Betty was still able to thank the Lord for His many gifts, and to make sure others heard of her gratitude.

Betty has helped me to celebrate Thanksgiving a little early. And maybe she can do the same for you, even if you never had the pleasure of her company. For one thing, I have found myself extraordinarily grateful to God for the gift of such a wonderful woman, and I'm glad I was able to tell her this while she was still alive. Betty's death has helped me to think of others in my life for whom I'm grateful, and to make sure I've told them. My guess is that you might have a "Betty Fager" in your life as well. Why not thank God for this person, and then make sure she knows of your gratitude?

Betty Fager, a thankful woman

Second, Betty's example of gratitude challenges me both to feel grateful and to express it. Is gratitude something you can actually choose to feel? Yes, I think so, to some extent anyway. It's a matter of pausing long enough to let the goodness of life sink in. It's looking out at a crystal clear autumn sky and, instead of rushing on to the next task, stopping to say, "Thank you, Lord, for the gift of this gorgeous day." Or it's feeling the embrace of my daughter on her birthday and treasuring the moment rather than moving on to the next one as if I were in some sort of race.

Betty Fager, in her passing, has given me one last gift: the gift of a new desire to be grateful. Since we're in November, and Thanksgiving is only nineteen days away, I'm celebrating an early Thanksgiving. Even if you didn't know Betty, I'd invite you to join me. Life is so much better when bathed in gratitude.

Thankful for People in Whom I've Experienced God's Grace
Posted for Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I want to share with you a recent experience I had of feeling grateful for God's grace at work in and through people in my life. Perhaps I can inspire you to express similar thanks to God for those who have been channels of God's grace to you.

Last month I spoke at a conference of Presbyterian pastors from northern California. We gathered at Zephyr Point, the Presbyterian conference center on the shores of Lake Tahoe. It was an astoundingly setting, where the beauty of nature primed my pump for gratitude.

Among the pastors at this retreat were two men with whom I've shared quite a bit of history. One was Stan Henderson, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Oroville, California. Over 30 years ago, Stan was my counselor at junior high camp. Actually, he counseled me at many junior high camps (winter and summer).

Stan was the perfect counselor for junior high boys: calm, even, kind. Though he exercised firm discipline, I don't ever remember Stan ever raising his voice. Since we liked and respected him, we wanted to please him.

This is the dining room of the lodge in which I stayed at Zephyr Point. You can see Lake Tahoe in the background, through the windows.

Stan's solid faith positively influenced me in a crucial time of my personal development. But it wasn't only his ability to explain the truth that made a difference in my life. It was Stan's living out of his faith that made the most profound impact upon me.

Now I also owe to Stan one of the most important lessons I ever learned, though it didn't have much to do with faith. One summer my cabin mates and I began to be interested in girls. But we didn't have the faintest idea how to get girls to like us. So we asked Stan for help. We pestered him mercilessly during one lunch: "Stan, how can we get girls? What's your secret? Ya gotta tell us." Finally Stan relented. "Okay," he said, "here's something that will work. Girls like to be complemented. Tell them you like their hair, or their clothes, or something, and they'll like it. Maybe they'll even like you."

Immediately we put Stan's advice into practice, but to such an extreme that I think we put off every girl in camp. Obviously we hadn't yet learned the subtleties of male/female relationships. In time, thank God, I figured out how to be a little more judicious in my complements.

Here I am with Stan.

Another pastor at the retreat was a man named K.C. He's an associate pastor of Carmichael Presbyterian Church in Carmichael, California. I've known K.C. for almost as long as I've known Stan, though K.C. is probably ten years younger than I am. I first got to know him when I was a summer intern in the youth ministry at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. At that time K.C. was, literally, a kid off the streets of Hollywood. He started coming to the church at the invitation of his landlord, who was an elder at Hollywood. At the church K.C. found a surrogate family. He was like our little brother in many ways. K.C. and I shared in several ministries during my years on the staff at Hollywood. And I was privileged to participate as a pastor in his wedding. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for K.C., who was one of the kindest and most dedicated Christians I ever knew.

Well, K.C. went on to Princeton Seminary. He and Debbie had three children. A couple of years ago he received a call to become the youth pastor at Carmichael Pres: a great start for what I know will be a wonderful ministry. (K.C. is also a blogger. You should check out his site.)

One of my favorite moments at the pastors' retreat was being served communion from K.C. Here was this fine pastor, committed husband, and loving father. The one who once had received ministry from me was now serving me as a fellow pastor. In that moment I sensed the wonder of God's grace.

Here I am with K.C.

At that pastors' retreat I felt grateful for Stan, who had made such a difference in my life at a crucial time. I also felt thankful for the chance to have made a difference in K.C.'s life, and to have had the precious privilege of getting to taste some of the fruit of my ministry as he ministered to me. Here, in microcosm, was the church throughout the ages: one generation passing on the faith to the next, and then to the next.

So, on the day before Thanksgiving, here's my prayer of gratitude:

Thank You, gracious God, for Stan, who gave his time and himself when I needed someone like him. Thanks for his patience, wisdom, and consistent love. Thanks for the way he was an incarnation of Your grace in my life.

And thank You, dear Father, for K.C. What a joy to have been used by You to make a difference in his life. And how wonderful to see what You have done in and through him! Thanks, Lord, for the fine man he has become, and for a friend who is also a pastor who ministers to me. How grateful I am, Lord, to see Your grace alive in K.C.

Thank You, God of history, for the generations who have gone before us, whose faithfulness allowed us to know You. And thanks for the privilege and high calling of passing on the faith to those who come after us. Amen.

Wholehearted Thanksgiving
Posted for Thursday, November 24, 2005

Praise the LORD!
  I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
 in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the LORD,
 studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
 and his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
 the LORD is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
 he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
 in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
 all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever,
 to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people;
 he has commanded his covenant forever.
 Holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
 all those who practice it have a good understanding.
 His praise endures forever.

Psalm 111

After an opening salvo of praise, the Psalmist says, "I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart" (v. 1). This isn't the first time we read this sort of thing in the Psalms. Psalm 9:1 says: "I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds." Similarly, Psalm 86:12 proclaims, "I give thanks to you, O LORD my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever."

So here's my question: What does it mean to thank God with my whole heart? Then I have some follow up questions: How can I give thanks wholeheartedly if, in fact, my heart is heavy? What if I'm not feeling very thankful today? Surely I'm not supposed to fake gratitude, as if I could pull the wool over God's eyes. How can I be authentic before God and still give Him thanks with my whole heart?

We'll be able to answer these questions if we understand the Hebrew conception of the heart. We translate the Hebrew word leb as "heart," and there are places in the Old Testament where leb is connection with emotions. Psalm 13:5, for example, says, "My heart shall rejoice in your salvation." Yet the leb in Hebrew means far more than the usual sense of "heart" in English. The leb is not merely the seat of the emotions, but of the will, even the mind. The leb is the whole inner person: thoughts, feelings, choices, purposes. In particular, the leb is that which guides our actions. It's what we usually speak of in English as the will.

So, when the Psalmist says, "I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart," he's saying more than, "I will feel very thankful." Rather, he means, "I will choose to offer thanks to the Lord. I will choose to acknowledge God's goodness to me, and I will do this with all of my inner strength."

Thus, ironically, if you're feeling down, if you're not feeling thankful, then you're in a perfect place to thank the Lord with your whole heart, because you can choose to do this. Indeed, you must choose to thank the Lord, because your emotions alone won't get you there.

Now let me be clear. This doesn't involve pretending. When we say, "Thank you, Lord," we're not necessarily saying, "Oh, Lord, I feel so thankful today. I have all sorts of warm fuzzies inside." Warm fuzzies, lukewarm fuzzies, or no fuzzies at all, thanking God is saying "You did this, and it's good, and I acknowledge this." You may or may not feel thankful at the time, but you can always choose to thank God by telling Him the great things He has done.

Psalm 111 gives us plenty of help in this regard. Verse 2 reads, "Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them." If you want to give thanks – indeed, if you want to feel grateful – begin by studying God's great works. Remember all of the wonderful things He has done, not only in your life, but also throughout history.

We will thank the LORD with all our hearts when we remember, not only what God has done, but also who He is. Verse 4 makes this clear: "He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the LORD is gracious and merciful." Did you see the transition there between what God has done – his wonderful deeds – and God's character – He is gracious and merciful. So we thank the Lord because of who He is, especially for His grace and mercy.

This points us to the center of our reason for wholehearted thanksgiving. As verse 9 reminds us, "He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever." The Psalmist was no doubt looking back to God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and to His establishment of the Mosaic covenant at Sinai shortly thereafter. When we read Psalm 111:9 as Christians, however, we have more to go on than the events of Exodus. We remember the redemption we have through Jesus Christ, whose death brought us out of bondage to sin and death. We celebrate the new covenant in the blood of Christ, through which we have forgiveness and eternal life.

Sometimes we feel joyful because of our salvation in Christ. That's one of the reasons we gather for worship, to remember so that we might rejoice. Yet no matter what we may be feeling at any given moment, we can always choose to thank God for what's true. And what is true? Because God is gracious and merciful, He has redeemed us through Jesus Christ. Moreover, it's true that God's mercies are new every morning as He continues to shower us with His good gifts.

And so we give thanks. We choose to say "thank you" to the Lord. Sometimes we do so when our hearts are soaring with gratitude. Sometimes we do so in the depths of despair. Wholehearted thanksgiving means choosing to remember what God has done and who He is, and to acknowledge His goodness no matter what we feel. Yet, as we do this, even when our hearts are heavy, the act of thanksgiving itself often lifts our hearts. But, even if it doesn't, we can still thank the Lord with our whole hearts because He deserves it, and because we need it.

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving, as you thank the Lord with all of your heart for His matchless goodness!


A Brief History of Thanksgiving
Posted for Thursday, November 24, 2005
(This is a new, improved, and expanded version of a piece I wrote last year.)

Last year I asked my six-year-old nephew, “On Thanksgiving, to whom do we say thank you?” He quickly responded, “To the native Americans.” (No, I'm not kidding.) “Do we say thank you to anybody else?” I queried persistently. “To the Pilgrims.” “And to anybody else?” I prodded further. “To God!” he exclaimed.

Well, though his order may be a little curious, that just about nails the historical roots of Thanksgiving. It’s common knowledge that the American celebration has its origin in 1621, as the Pilgrims invited the neighboring Indian tribes to join them in a feast of gratitude for God’s blessings. There’s no evidence, however, that they actually celebrated this on the fourth Thursday in November, or that it lasted only one day, or that they played a mean game of touch football after dinner.
"The First Thanksgiving" by Jennie August Brownscombe (1914)

New Englanders remembered the Pilgrims’ effort for many years through regional celebrations of Thanksgiving. Sometimes American Presidents would set aside a day for the nation to be thankful. In 1789, for example, President George Washington proclaimed November 26th as a national day of thanksgiving. Here's the core of his presidential proclamation:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor--and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their Joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be--That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions--to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us--and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

The idea of a permanent, national celebration each November came 242 years after the first Pilgrim-Indian festival in the early 17th century. During the Civil War, many Americans clamored for some sort of national religious holiday. One of the most vocal was Sarah Josepha Hale (who, by the way, wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb”). Hale used her clout as editor of the influential Godey’s Lady’s Book magazine to motivate President Lincoln to proclaim a national holiday. On September 28, 1863 she wrote a letter to the President encouraging him to “have the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a national and fixed Union Festival.” Five days later Lincoln issued the “Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863” (which we’ll examine below).
The first part of Hale's letter to Lincoln. The underlined part reads "have the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a national and fixed Union Festival."

In his proclamation, Lincoln set apart the “last Thursday of November” as “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” Throughout the next eight decades, all American Presidents followed Lincoln’s example. But during the 1933, as the Great Depression raged, many merchants appealed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to change the day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. The reason for this request? November 1933 had five Thursdays, which left the minimum number of shopping days between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Roosevelt denied this request, leaving the holiday on the last Thursday of the month.

But in 1939, the next five-Thursdays-in-November year, President Roosevelt gave in to the requests of business owners and established the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day. National chaos ensued, with some states following Roosevelt’s lead and others sticking with the traditional last, and in this year, fifth Thursday. This meant, among other things, that families living in different states were in many cases unable to celebrate Thanksgiving together. The national controversy over the day of the holiday continued, until Congress passed a law on December 26, 1941, making the fourth Thursday of November the one, official, national day.

Recalcitrant Canada, I might add, does not recognize the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. I learned this the hard way while in college. Some friends and I decided to celebrate Thanksgiving by driving from Boston up to Montreal. It didn’t dawn on us that Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. This wouldn’t have been so bad, except that the restaurant in which we had our Thanksgiving dinner didn’t even have turkey on its menu. I had to settle for quiche, of all things. Now that’s a Thanksgiving travesty!

One of many critical communications Roosevelt received in light of his controversial Thanksgiving decision. This telegram, written in November 1940 by two restaurant owners reads: CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR REELECTION. WHEN SHALL WE SERVE OUR THANKSGIVING TURKEY 21ST? OR 28TH? (For a larger telegram, click the picture.)

I want to close by printing the text of Lincoln’s original Thanksgiving proclamation. I won’t add my own comments. But I will italicize a few sections that strike me as especially profound. As you read this proclamation, you might ask yourself: What would happen if an American President used this kind of language today in an official proclamation? What in this statement speaks to the heart of our national crisis today?

Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863

  The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

  In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

  Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

  No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

  It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility [sic], and union.

  In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

  Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Christmastime Reflections on the Narnia Movie
Posted for Monday, December 12, 2005

This is not meant to be a review of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe so much as a collection of personal reflections. (If you're looking for reviews, check out this link .) I saw the movie on Friday afternoon with my son. In general, we both liked it very much. If we were playing Ebert and Roper, we'd give it two thumbs up. The film did an excellent job overall portraying the essential story, thus helping Narnia come to life through the magic of computer graphics and the otherworldly countryside of New Zealand.  

As I watched the film, I was reminded that the story was, indeed, originally meant for children. Thus the movie, because it was faithful to the book, is also best for children (not very young ones, however, because of the violent battle scenes). Though enjoying the film, I found myself at points missing the layered intricacies of The Lord of the Rings saga. Yet the child in me loved watching talking beavers and didn't miss the sometimes confusing subtleties of the Rings tale. The movie version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is, like the book on which it was based, much simpler in storyline than Tolkien's weighty masterpiece.

Though faithfully depicting the essence of Lewis's original story, the movie adds and subtracts elements, as indeed any film adaptation of a book must do. It isn't a slavish reproduction, but an inspired retelling of the Narnia story. I can understand why the filmmakers added some action that wasn't in the book (like the chase by the sleigh and the river crossing) because the first half of the movie, like the book, meanders slowly along.

I found myself disappointed and surprised by one bit of the book that didn't make it into the movie. For me, it's one of the most moving and enticing parts of the novel. I'm referring to the dialogue between the children and the beavers, in which they discover who Aslan is, that he's not a man, but a lion. Susan asks, "Is he – quite safe?" Mr. Beaver responds, "'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you." A new revised standard version of this line made it into the film, but only at the end. I wish the original dialogue had been left intact and in place.

The film's depiction of Aslan will, no doubt, engender lots of conversation. For those of us who love The Chronicles of Narnia in general , and Aslan in particular, I can't imagine any portrayal of Aslan that would fully meet our expectations. Nevertheless, I was surprised by the ordinariness of Aslan. He didn't seem to be much bigger than a real lion. His voice, which at first I kept hearing as that of Qui-Gon Jinn or Oskar Schindler, is far less basso and daunting than I would have imagined. Maybe I missed James Earl Jones's Mufasa. If anything, I found that the film portrayed the White Witch as more awesome than the book's character, and Aslan as less awesome.

My personal jury is still out concerning whether or not I prefer this portrayal of Aslan. I did miss the majestic King of the Chronicles, yet, at the same time, I think the film's depiction gives Aslan a different sort of power, not so much physical strength as moral character and, in the end, love.

Here's where I make a lion-sized leap to a reflection upon Aslan as a Christ figure. I expect most of my readers will now that C. S. Lewis intended Aslan to be a Christ-like figure in the fictional world of Narnia, some I'm not reading into the text here. Christians believe that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully human, the veritable Word of God in the flesh. It's very hard, however, for us to keep the two natures of Jesus together. We tend either to make Him a powerful God who is barely human, or a genuine human who is hardly God. The Aslan of the Narnia movie represents a Christ who is very human, though still the King. For those of us who tend to make Aslan and Jesus bigger than life, this may be a good corrective. And it may be especially appropriate as we draw near to Christmas.  

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Son of God in human form, the Creator becoming part of the creation. Jesus was really born as a vulnerable human being. He really cried, really felt hunger, really felt pain, and, ultimately, really died. He wasn't God pretending to be human, but God who became fully human. Thus, when I see Aslan pictured more as a real lion than a super-lion, I'm reminded of who Jesus really was as God's Son, not in the magic land of Narnia, but in our world.

No depiction of Jesus, in film or books, in art or song, in poetry or theology, will ever fully capture the truth of who He really is. Every human effort will fall short of that truth. Every portrayal will miss the perfect balance of the Incarnation. Yet when the portrayal gets many things right, as does Lewis's Aslan, both in book and in film, then it has the power to challenge us to know the real Jesus better.

I went to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe expecting to be moved by the parts of the story that have brought me to a deeper experience of the cross and resurrection of Christ. And, indeed, I was so moved. But, unexpectedly, I came away from the film reflecting on the humanity on Christ, and on the wonder of His birth. Thus, for me, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has enriched my preparation for Christmas.