December 2023
Spiritual formation
Advent Reading 2: A Deeper Magic

An advent reading from the collection "Christmas Glory"

Evil hardly ever works out the way we think it will. Evil enters the labyrinth of God’s providence like a blind man, feeling his way around the high cinder-block walls and unexpected turns. It exits when God wills, after it’s already served his purposes. But we don’t often see evil this way, or even believe in God’s providence. We think of evil as a sharp shooter with lethal precision and unchecked freedom. Christmas is a reminder that evil, when it comes to it, can’t even stand up to an infant.
Christmas is a reminder that evil, when it comes to it, can't even stand up to an infant.

In C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy mourns the death of her great lion, Aslan. Stabbed to the heart on a stone slab, surrounded by evil minions, Aslan appears lost. But then a deeper magic set in place by the Emperor beyond the Sea snapped that evil reality in half like a twig. Aslan rose from the dead. What appeared to be done was undone; an alleged victory for evil became its own death toll. C. S. Lewis knew it: evil exits the labyrinth of providence when God wills. In the end, no matter how horrid and horrendous it is, evil ends up being a servant, not a master.

Think of all this in the context of the Son of God breaking through a virgin’s body to meet the light and air of our world, greeted by a chorus of grunts and foot-stomps from wet-nosed stable animals. Evil had been looking for the child, even before he was born. And evil would look for him after he entered the world (Matt. 2:16–18). But on the night of his birth, evil would not win (it never really does). The God of all things would enter the world he spoke, through the Word he spoke (John 1:1), by the Spirit who spoke it. Divine speech can’t be silenced.

There is always a deeper magic at work around us. Evil seems to run rampant, to shred and break and burn without resistance. It rears its ugly head in global pandemics and mudslides, but also in a billion hateful words uttered by hearts deceived. In every case, it appears to stand over the situation, jamming its conqueror’s flag into the soil of the moment, claiming clear victory—as the wicked witch did over Aslan’s body. But evil is ignorant. It has no idea what God is up to. It boasts of desolation and a deep history of success, but something deeper undoes it.

Evil boasts of desolation and a deep history of success, but something deeper undoes it.

That’s Christmas. Christmas is the deeper magic of God burning bright as a star right in Satan’s eyes. What was the evil it undid? Brace yourself . . . our ignorant and selfish rebellion. From the dawn of time, we have chosen self over others, power over grace, revenge over forgiveness, taking over giving. We’ve had a deep-seated desire to serve ourselves. But a deeper magic—the self-giving Trinity, maker and master of all things, who gave himself for us—would be born into our world and take over time: past, present, and future. 

Christmas is the celebration of a deeper magic. It’s a time to rejoice in truth that soars far above our heads. It’s a time to smile uncontrollably at the unexpected providence of God. In the chess match for control over the hearts of men, Satan boasted of his every move. Then God showed up a fleshy ball of dough, bleary-eyed, weak, and needy. Check mate. The deeper magic wins as Satan stares slack-jawed. Eternity saves time through an infant. What else can you do with that but raise your hands and say, “Hallelujah”?

More Advent readings are waiting for you in Christmas Glory

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