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Showing posts from December, 2006

A Christmas Psalm

Psalm 110
The Lord says to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet."

The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;
you will rule in the midst of your enemies.
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy majesty,
from the womb of the dawn
you will receive the dew of your youth.

The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
"You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek."

The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook beside the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms,
Chapter XII, paragraphs 4 & 5:

"We find in our Prayer Books that Psalm 110 is one of those appointed for Christmas Day. We may at first be surprised by this. There is nothing in it about peace and good-will, nothing remotely sugg…

Something New

"On the one hand something really new did happen at Bethlehem: not an interpretation but an event. God became Man. On the other hand there must be a sense in which God, being outside time, is changeless and nothing ever 'happens' to Him. I think I should reply that the event at Bethlehem was a novelty, a change to the maximum extent to which any event is a novelty or change: but that all time and all events in it, if we cd. see them all at once and fully understand them, are a definition or diagram of what God eternally is.

"But that is quite different from saying that the incarnation was simply an interpretation, or a change in our knowledge. When Pythagoras discovered that the square on the hypotenuse was equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides he was discovering what had been just as true the day before though no one knew it. But in 50 B. C. the proposition 'God is Man' wd. not have been true in the same sense in wh. it was true in 10 A. D. …

Feast of the Nativity or 'Xmas'

"Just a very hurried line . . . To tell a story which puts the contrast between our feast of the Nativity and, all this ghastly 'Xmas' racket at its lowest. My brother heard a woman on a bus say, as the bus passed a church with a Crib outside it, 'Oh Lor'! They bring religion into everything. Look--they're dragging it even into Christmas now!"

C. S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, December 29 , 1958

Father Christmas

"And on the sledge sat a person whom everyone knew the moment they set eyes on him. He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as holly-berries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest. Everyone knew him because, though you see people of his sort only in Narnia, you see pictures of them and hear them talked about even in our world--the world on this side of the wardrobe door. But when you really see them in Narnia it is rather different. Some of the pictures of Father Christmas in our world make him look only funny and jolly. But now that the children actually stood looking at him they didn't find it quite like that. He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.

"'I've come at last,' said he. 'She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Aslan is on the move. The Witch's magic is weakening.…

An Awkward Fact

"To ask whether the universe as we see it looks more like the work of a wise and good Creator or the work of chance, indifference, or malevolence, is to omit from the outset all the relevant factors in the religious problem. Christianity is not the conclusion of a philosophical debate on the origins of the universe: it is a catastrophic historical event following on the long spiritual preparation of humanity which I have described. It is not a system into which we have to fit the awkward fact of pain: it is itself one of the awkward facts which have to be fitted into any system we make. In a sense, it creates, rather than solves, the problem of pain, for pain would be no problem unless, side by side with our daily experience of this painful world, we had received what we think a good assurance that ultimate reality is righteous and loving. . . .

"And when we come to the last step of all, the historical Incarnation, the assurance is strongest of all. The story is strangely l…

Starvation for Light

"The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." Matthew 4:16
"The starvation for light became very painful. He found himself thinking about light as a hungry man thinks about food - picturing April hillsides with milky clouds racing over them in blue skies or quiet circles of lamp - light on tables pleasantly littered with books and pipes. By a curious confusion of mind he found it impossible not to imagine that the slope he walked on was not merely dark, but black in its own right, as if with soot. He felt that his feet and hands must be blackened by touching it. Whenever he pictured himself arriving at any light, he also pictured that light revealing a world of soot all around him." C. S. Lewis, Perelandra
It is hard to imagine hungering for light. But when we lived in Ireland for a brief time we learned a bit of what it means to long for the light. Ireland is so far north that durin…

The Divine Story

"One might imagine a play in which the dramatist introduced himself as a character into his own play and was pelted off the stage as an impudent impostor by the other characters. . . . But since (as far as I know) such a play doesn't exist, we had better change to a narrative work; a story into which the author puts himself as one of the characters.

"We have a real instance of this in Dante's Divine Comedy. Dante is (1) the muse outside the poem who is inventing the whole thing, and (2) a character inside the poem, whom the other characters meet and with whom they hold conversations. Where the analogy breaks down is that everything the poem contains is merely imaginary, in that the characters have no free will. They (the characters) can say to Dante only what Dante (the poet) has decided to put into their mouths. I do not think we humans are related to God in that way. I think God can make things which not only--like a poet's or novelist's characters--seem to…

The Fullness of Time

"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons." Galatians 4:4-5

"For if we once accept the doctrine of the Incarnation, we must surely be very cautious in suggesting that any circumstance in the culture of first-century Palestine was a hampering or distorting influence upon his teaching. Do we suppose that the scene of God's earthly life was selected at random?--that some other scene would have served better?" C. S. Lewis, The World's Last Night, Chapter Seven, paragraph 7.

In a recent Advent sermon I have suggested at least one reason why the first century was the best time for Jesus to be born. Click this link to see why: http://www.willvaus.com/mission_impossible_3.

Cat & Mouse

"Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about 'man's search for God.' To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat. . . .


"As I drew nearer the conclusion, I felt a resistance almost as strong as my previous resistance to Theism. As strong, but shorter-lived, for I understood it better. Every step I had taken, from the Absolute to 'Spirit' and from 'Spirit' to 'God,' had been a step toward the more concrete, the more imminent, the more compulsive. At each step one had less chance 'to call one's soul one's own.' To accept the Incarnation was a further step in the same direction. It brings God nearer, or near in a new way. And this, I found, was something I had not wanted."

C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, Chapter XIV, paragraph 21 & Chapter XV, paragraph 8.

Three Christmases

"Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians. . . . The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn't go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making. If it were my business to have a 'view' on this, I should say that I much approve of merry-making. . . . But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone's business.

"I mean of course the commercial racket. . . . I condemn it on the following grounds. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to ‘keep’ it [in the commerical sense] in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out—physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them…

The Great Iconoclast

"Images, I must suppose, have their use or they would not have been so popular. (It makes little difference whether they are pictures and statues outside the mind or imaginative constructions within it.) To me, however, their danger is more obvious. Images of the Holy easily become holy images--sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are 'offended' by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not."
C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, Book IV, paragraph 15.

The Missing Chapter

"I think we are rather in this position. Supposing you had before you a manuscript of some great work, either a symphony or a novel. There then comes to you a person, saying, 'Here is a new bit of the manuscript that I found; it is the central passage of that symphony, or the central chapter of that novel. The text is incomplete without it. I have got the missing passage which is really the centre of the whole work.' The only thing you could do would be to put this new piece of the manuscript in that central position, and then see how it reacted on the whole of the rest of the work. If it constantly brought out new meanings from the whole of the rest of the work, if it made you notice things in the rest of the work which you had not noticed before, then I think you would decide that it was authentic. On the other hand, if it failed to do that, then, however attractive it was in itself, you would reject it.

"Now, what is the missing chapter in this case, the chapter …

Drawn into Heaven

"One must be careful not to put this in a way which would blur the distinction between the creation of a man and the Incarnation of God. Could one, as a mere model, put it thus? In creation God makes--invents--a person and 'utters'--injects--him into the realm of Nature. In the Incarnation, God the Son takes the body and human soul of Jesus, and, through that, the whole environment of Nature, all the creaturely predicament, into His own being. So that 'He came down from Heaven' can almost be transposed into 'Heaven drew earth up into it,' and locality, limitation, sleep, sweat, footsore weariness, frustration, pain, doubt, and death, are, from before all worlds, known by God from within. The pure light walks the earth; the darkness, received into the heart of Deity, is there swallowed up. Where, except in uncreated light, can the darkness be drowned?" C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, letter XIII, last paragraph.

The Rest of the Tin Soldiers

"And here, of course, we come to the point where my illustration about the tin soldier breaks down. In the case of real toy soldiers or statues, if one came to life, it would obviously make no difference to the rest. They are all separate. But human beings are not. They look separate because you see them walking about separately. But then, we are so made that we can see only the present moment. If we could see the past, then of course it would look different. For there was a time when every man was part of his mother, and (earlier still) part of his father as well: and when they were part of his grandparents. If you could see humanity spread out in time, as God sees it, it would not look like a lot of separate things dotted about. It would look like one single growing thing--rather like a very complicated tree. Every individual would appear connected with every other. And not only that. Individuals are not really separate from God any more than from one another. Every man, woman,…

One Tin Soldier

"Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoiled. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can do to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it.
"What you would have done about that tin soldier I do not know. But what God did about us was this. The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man--a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular color, speaking a particular language, weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a Woma…

New Creation

"No woman ever conceived a child, no mare a foal, without Him. But once, and for a special purpose, He dispensed with that long line which is His instrument: once His life-giving finger touched a woman without passing through the ages of interlocked events. Once the great glove of Nature was taken off His hand. His naked hand touched her. There was of course a unique reason for it. That time He was creating not simply a man but the Man who was to be Himself: was creating Man anew: was beginning, at this divine and human point, the New Creation of all things. The whole soiled and weary universe quivered at this direct injection of essential life--direct, uncontaminated, not drained through all the crowded history of Nature." C. S. Lewis, Miracles, chapter XV, paragraph 11.

The Virgin Birth

"I can understand the man who denies miracles altogether: but what is one to make of people who will believe other miracles and 'draw the line' at the Virgin Birth? Is it that for all their lip service to the laws of Nature there is only one natural process in which they really believe? Or is it that they think they see in this miracle a slur upon sexual intercourse (though they might just as well see in the feeding of the five thousand an insult to bakers) and that sexual intercourse is the one thing still venerated in this unvenerating age? In reality the miracle is no less, and no more, surprising than any others."
C. S. Lewis, Miracles, chapter XV, paragraph 10.

The Nativity

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 Saviour where I looked for hay;
So may my beastlike 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 baa-ing nature would win thence
Some wooly innocence!

C. S. Lewis, Poems, p. 122.

The Imitation of Christ

"Our imitation of God in this life--that is, our willed imitation as distinct from any of the likenesses which He has impressed upon our natures or states--must be an imitation of God incarnate: our model is the Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions. For this, so strangely unlike anything we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions." C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, Introduction, paragraph 12.

Thank you God, for taking on human flesh and showing us how to live the way you created us to be. Thank you Jesus, for dying on the cross for my failure to live a fully human life. I praise you Holy Spirit for raising Jesus from the dead and breathing new life into me, that I might walk in the footsteps of Christ and imitate him by your power and grace. Amen.

A Mind-Bender

"It seems, then," said Tirian, smiling himself, "that the Stable seen from within and the Stable seen from without are two different places."

"Yes," said the Lord Digory. "Its inside is bigger than its outside."

"Yes," said Queen Lucy. "In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world."

C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, Chapter 13

God in Our Weakness

In a letter to a correspondent written on 17 July 1953, C. S. Lewis said: "You needn't worry about not feeling brave. Our Lord didn't--see the scene in Gethsemane. How thankful I am that when God became Man He did not choose to become a man of iron nerves: that would not have helped weaklings like you and me nearly so much."

The writer to the Hebrews said, "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16

Praise God for Immanuel, God with us, God in our weakness, Jesus. Amen.

The Wonder of the Incarnation

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Matthew 24:36

C. S. Lewis comments on the professed ignorance of Jesus, displayed in this statement, and wonders over it as one aspect of the mystery of the Incarnation:

"To believe in the Incarnation, to believe that he is God, makes it hard to understand how he could be ignorant; but also makes it certain that, if he said he could be ignorant, then ignorant he could really be. For a God who can be ignorant is less baffling than a God who falsely professes ignorance. The answer of theologians is that the God-Man was omniscient as God, and ignorant as Man. This, no doubt, is true, though it cannot be imagined. Nor indeed can the unconsciousness of Christ in sleep be imagined, nor the twilight of reason in his infancy; still less his merely organic life in his mother's womb. But the physical sciences, no less than theology, propose for our belief much that cannot b…

Conformed to his Image

In Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis explains how the incarnation is God's answer to the problem of humanity's fall into sin:

"Unfortunately we now need God's help in order to do something which God, in His own nature, never does at all--to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God's nature corresponds to this process at all. So that the one road for which we now need God's leadership most of all is a road God, in His own nature, has never walked. God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, He has not.

"But supposing God became a man--suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God's nature in one person--then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succee…

The Pearl of Great Price

"In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created. But he goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders. Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then …

The Central Miracle

I am taking a break from meditations on Mere Christianity. Beginning today, and for every day leading up to and including Christmas Day, I plan to share a C. S. Lewis quote related to the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth or the celebration of Christmas. So here goes. . . .

"The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature's total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation. There is no question in Christianity of arbitrary interferences just scattered about. It relates not a series of disconnected raids on Nature but the various steps of a strategically coherent invasion--an invasion which intends complete conquest and 'occupation.' The fitness, and theref…