It was nearly a nondescript December Wednesday. I was pushing hard to finish projects on my desk, and Cherie was likely pulling dinner together and trying to focus the kids on their homework.
The only difference was that winter’s first snow had enveloped our town throughout the day. The constancy of a light and gentle snow shower had added up to nearly a half-foot of fresh powder, cleansing our town, causing Christmas lights to glow more brightly and, if only for a moment, increasing the possibility of “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”
A whisper came to me, as it often does, nearly inaudible and easy to avoid:
Go home early. Fight for the Magic.
The pull was fierce. Cherie knows to expect me home at six; I had a full hour left to blast at my never ending to-do list.
The whisper came again:
Go home early. Fight for the Magic.
It wasn’t unfamiliar. But four times out of five I choose to ignore the whisper or I miss it entirely as a result of being distracted and not present to my reality.
It was years ago, after the kids had passed through their infancy and toddlerhood and suddenly we had little people on our hands, that I began asking these questions:
“Father, the holidays are a tsunami. It takes everything just to survive. From social obligation, cultural expectations, and the simple frenzy of holiday activity, finding Jesus in it all is nearly impossible. How am I supposed to live in this? What do I need to do to lead my family through the cultural gauntlet in order to actually experience You, Your Kingdom, and the reality of what Christmas is all about?”
Jesus brought this answer with piercing clarity (not always the norm):
Bring the Magic.
I knew right away it was a reference to what C.S. Lewis first put words to for me when he described the Deep Magic written within the Stone Table in the land of Narnia.
In this most extraordinary series of adventure stories, Narnia is a living manifestation of the Kingdom of God and, as most of you might know, Aslan, the Great Lion, is the noble, kind, strong, and mysterious incarnation of Jesus.
Describing the Deeper Magic in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Lewis says,
It means that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards
The Deeper Magic is always beckoning us.
It is the Call to the narrow road, the whisper of our Father, through the Holy Spirit, and made possible by the humility, nobility and sacrifice of our Jesus, to follow Him through the treachery of this world to the Life that is truly Life.
To look beyond what we see with our natural eyes and see instead through the eyes of our hearts, our deepest beliefs and our hope-deeper-still that there is more. There is more to the story than we have been led to believe.
In fact, there is Mystery, Wonder, and Someone who if we were only to open ourselves to Him and choose Him, would cause us to be swept up into the amazement of a Larger Story of which He is the stunning and great-hearted Hero and in which we each play a crucial and extraordinary role.
This Deeper Magic most often whispers through our desire.
I appreciate how John captured it in his book, Desire, when he wrote this:
The secret that begins to solve the riddle of our lives is simply this: we are the sea lion who lost the sea. Life as usual is not the life we truly want. It is not the life we truly need. It is not the life we were made for. If we would only listen to our hearts, to what G.K. Chesterton called our ‘divine discontent,’ we would learn the secret of our existence. As he wrote in Orthodoxy, ‘We have come to the wrong star… That is what makes life at once so splendid and so strange. The true happiness is that we don’t fit. We come from somewhere else. We have lost our way…’
We abandon the most important journey of our lives when we abandon desire. We leave our hearts by the side of the road and head off in the direction of fitting in, getting by, being productive… Whatever we gain – money, position, the approval of others, or just the absence of the discontent itself – it’s not worth it. ‘What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26)
The Deeper Magic beckons through our divine discontent, standing as perennial and unchanging as a lighthouse guiding us safely through treacherous seas.
For Cherie and me, the longing for Deeper Magic has become the pulse of our prayer life through this season as we endeavor to lead our family down the narrow road of Advent and into Christmas through the minefield of December.
For us, it starts with saying no. Saying no to so many things—good things, noble things, but alas, things that are not from God for us. It is praying for wholehearted discernment. It is saying no to things that are simply “little foxes” that the enemy wants to use to suck our energy, time, and ability to be present to the most important things.
- It is our collection of Christmas books that come out and bid us to read fireside and next to the candle lit nativity in the evenings. (See below for suggestions.)
- It is the windmill of the Christmas Carousel that turns slowly with brilliance and wonder by the invisible warmth of the candles below.
- It’s heading out with the kids at dusk for a hike in deer country to slip among the rutting bucks and the owls that call to their partners from the dead branches of lodgepole pines, gracing the last of evening light with their haunting cry. Regular rituals that happen as sure as the sun rising, yet pass me by so often as the clamoring to accomplish more blinds me to the divine invitation right before my eyes.
- It’s saying no to retail, Black Friday, drama, stuff, and the entitlement of Christmas as yet another time for all of us to “cash in” on me, and instead engaging the kids in the opportunity to give.
- It’s Christmas lights… and ascending the damn roof one more time to put on what I think are the ugliest of lights but which the kids love. And it’s the past-bedtime drives around the neighborhood to admire some dazzling light displays (and crack up at others).
- It’s Christmas music flooding the house, alluring us to choose wonder over cynicism and remember a magical time not too far away, and asking that Wonder slip once again into our present moment.
- It’s heading out into the national forest to cut down a Christmas tree. It’s the pocket-rocket camp stove, hot chocolate, ramen in the pack, and shotgun at the ready. (It’s small game season out here in the Rockies… who are we to miss a chance of a holiday feast of cotton tail, squirrel, and collared doves? Plus it makes for better photos.)
- It’s an intentional pause to put George Winston’s December on the headphones and let God rush through me like a fire, wind, and rain.
Back to last night and the Holy Spirit’s invitation to “Go home early. Fight for the Magic.” I did, and the Deeper Magic caught us up once more. Funny how it still catches me off-guard. The enemy whispers, “This is too daunting. Punt on it. There is always next time.” But the Holy Spirit demonstrates that all we need to do is open the door: create the space and choose to be present. And more times than not, the Deeper Magic comes in like the morning tide and meets us as we risk hoping for its presence.
What my flesh wanted to do was crack open a beer, switch into the “how was your day” (often said more as a statement than a question) in half-present mode, and rush the bedtime routine through the factory in order to get to that second beer.
But, in this moment, I listened to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Per His inspiration, I surprised the family by being home forty-five minutes early and invited them on a snowy night time run through the neighborhood. We suited up, looking like some rowdy combination of the Griswolds and Ralphie’s brother Randy from A Christmas Story. With headlamps and various assortments of dad’s blinking bike lights, we set off in the snowy evening and were immediately enveloped by beauty, mystery and wonder. Some of the characters that we are blessed to have as neighbors on our little slice of suburgatory became simply picturesque as if inhabiting those glorious Christmas cottages you would expect to see at the outskirts of Santa’s North Pole. Light flickered and gave off a beyond typical glow on the newly fallen snow. We piled up snow and did snow bombs, watched our breath, drew pictures, and for a moment, were all young and free.
After dinner, we departed from the normal routine and huddled next to the Nativity scene we’ve been fashioning over the years. Illuminated only by a sea of candles and a headlamp for reading, we dove into one of our many favorite Christmas stories. And we feasted on the Deeper Magic that opened our hearts yet again to all that is available this month in remembering He is
Immanuel — God. With. Us.
The demands are heavy. They always are. We are builders by nature.
Our culture of progress seduces us to celebrate the tomorrow of possibility more than the enough of today.
So I know it is with my will-convinced-of-the-narrow-road-deeper-even-than-my-emotions that I must drop the pencil early and go play with my kids in the snow. Little in me wants to; email sucks me in like a bad swirly from my buddies in third grade.
But there will always be email.
There will be only one Christmas season when my little princess, Abigail, and my daily growing bearcub, Joshua, will be suspended at these still innocent ages of six and nine.
Life is too short.
I choose to play.
What will you choose today?
What is it that you are to fight for this Christmas season? Where is the Deeper Magic wanting to come to you and your people?
Ask the Father what is on His heart for your family. What matters most to Him? Ask Him what tempts you that is good—good people, good opportunities, good things—but is simply not His divine intention for you in this season.
Say “no” to everything that opposes His PERSONAL life and intention for you.
Say “yes” to partnering with your bride and uniting your hearts around the few treasures that are most important.
Ask for the Deeper Magic to come. And then do everything in your power to create a space for it.
He gave you that strength for a reason—don’t squander it on your inbox.
We need each other to choose the Deeper Magic.
Because when we do, perhaps we might hasten the coming of the Kingdom and the Second Advent of the Man Jesus, and the Era when “peace on earth and goodwill toward men” will reign in full.
Then all Heaven will rejoice and will tell the stories around the eternal campfire of when you were a young man and chose the narrow road and invited a few others to come along with you.
Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.
Footnote, as one possible next step, choose to power down life earlier than normal, light some candles, and enjoy reading a great Christmas Story together. Here are a few that have brought the Deeper Magic to our family that I think you might also enjoy.
And don’t forget forget the joy of being armed with your pocket knife Christmas morning to help your kids open those gifts…
This Blog- The Best Christmas Gift You Can Give
The Indescribable Gift by Richard Exley
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
The Carpenter’s Gift by David Rubel
Come and See by Monica Mayper
Good King Wenceslas by John M. Neale
Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick
The Miracle of Saint Nicholas by Gloria Whelan
May the Deeper Magic of Christmas come to your heart and home.
And a very Merry Christmas indeed from our family to yours…
More on The Christmas season, you might enjoy this blog – The Best Christmas Give You Can Give.