When I was training for the priesthood, a wise old priest who was in his late 80s also lived in the college. One day we were talking about the books we loved to read, and he said that he had, in his old age, returned to reading fairy stories; they were simple and often had an interesting message for everyday life. He got me thinking about the stories which I loved as a child.

I think that my favourite was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which I’m sure many of you will know. A young girl climbs into a wardrobe and, instead of the back of the wardrobe, she discovers the magical land of Narnia where snow is falling in a wood by night and light shines from a solitary lamppost. It appears to be a winter wonderland, but not all is as it seems. Narnia is ruled by the White Witch, who makes it always winter, always a time of darkness and despair, and never Christmas, never a time of fun and jollity. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Narnia are still full of hope, that one day the great lion, Aslan, will return, overthrow the White Witch, and bring spring again.

On Sunday 3rd December the season of Advent begins. The readings which we hear in church during the season of Advent are also, like the Narnia stories, filled with hope. Many of them are from the prophet Isaiah who lived in dark and dangerous times when his city was under siege. Isaiah speaks to his people about a maiden who is with child, a child who will save them from destruction. Isaiah would have hoped that this child would grow to become a great warrior king, like the famed King David of old. For Christians this hope of Isaiah is fulfilled neither in a great military leader, nor indeed a mighty lion, but in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was born like all of us as a tiny, vulnerable baby, who shared our frailty but who was to lay down his life in love for each of us and lead us through suffering and death into new life, his life, life with God, now and into eternity.