Thanks to ilysia who inspired part of this chapter with her totally awesome, wonderful story "Under a Foreign Sun".
Returning home from the Christmas Eve service, the Pevensie household held an air of peace that had been missing for too long. The children happily opened the gifts from each other, in anticipation of the next day's presents. As had apparently become tradition while Mr. Pevensie was away, Lucy read the Christmas story from the Bible as her brothers sat close on either side. Even Susan rested near, laying her dark head on Edmund's shoulder.
Despite the lovely picture his children made, he frowned in confusion as Lucy moved from the Christmas story to that of the Passion and Resurrection. When he looked at his wife, though, Helen just shook her head, silently telling him not to question their daughter. Apparently this too was a new tradition.
After Lucy finished, Peter herded his siblings to bed. Helen followed soon after, always the morning bird who started falling asleep even before her children. Mr. Pevensie just sat in his chair, staring into the still-lit fireplace. Though during the war Helen had started putting out the Christmas presents in the early morning, before the children woke, Mr. Pevensie wanted to have that joy himself this year. As, unlike his wife, he was not one to wake before he had to, he decided to stay up until he was sure everyone was asleep before playing Father Christmas.
A little over an hour later, just as he was thinking it was time to begin, Mr. Pevensie heard creaking in the hallways. Smiling he got up from his chair, thinking that one of the children, likely Lucy, had snuck down to see if Father Christmas had arrived yet. Instead, as he peeked out into the foyer, he saw Peter and Edmund. The boys didn't look like they were going to inspect the tree, however. To Mr. Pevensie's confusion, they were pulling on their coats, hats, gloves, and boots, as if they were about to go outside.
Keeping back so they wouldn't notice him, Mr. Pevensie listened to their conversation. Peter tugged on Edmund's hat for him. "Do you think Lucy can convince her to come?" he asked in a low voice.
Edmund sighed. "I think…perhaps maybe this year she will. At least we have more hope this time, after Su came back during the service."
While Mr. Pevensie puzzled over what 'came back' meant, Peter nodded. "I hope you're right. It's just not the same with one of us taking her part."
Edmund was prevented from answering as Lucy crept down the stairs. Three grins almost lit the room as Susan followed her sister. The boys helped the girls bundle up, and they quietly slipped out of the house.
Mr. Pevensie, anxious as to what his children were doing leaving the house in the dead of night in the freezing cold, quickly threw on his own winter clothing and followed them. It was easy to follow without being seen, as they were the only ones outside in the quiet night. The four children walked silently down the road to the small park two blocks over. They stopped beneath a copse of young trees, which had been planted not long before after a bomb had destroyed the old garden.
He watched as the children arranged themselves in a diamond, Peter facing Lucy and Edmund facing Susan. Though their noses were red from cold and they were bundled in layers of thick clothes, their faces were serene and almost…regal. Mr. Pevensie watched as Peter lifted his gloved hands, palms up, before him as he spoke. "Narnians, gather and listen, for the stars sing and Christmas comes in the morn."
His three siblings answered in chorus, though Mr. Pevensie noticed that Susan spoke in near a whisper. "We are gathered with thee under the stars. Speak and we shall hear."
Mr. Pevensie gazed at his eldest son, who lowered his hands and drew himself into a posture that made his previous stateliness seem common in comparison. Peter's voice rang out, stern and brilliant and joyful all at once.
I am Peter; a servant of Aslan, who named me High King above kings of Narnia, past and future. Hear now of the first Christmas. With a shiver, Mr. Pevensie realized that this declaration did not seem outrageous or mad; instead he rather felt that he himself was acting improperly in not bowing before his own son.
Six months into the first year of the reign of King Frank I and Queen Helen, the days began growing darker. Night came earlier in each day, and the sun grew colder as winter approached for the first time. The Narnians, to whom winter was unknown, grew fearful, thinking that the sun would wane until it disappeared completely; not even the words of their king and queen could reassure them.
Then, on the darkest night of the year, an old man arrived in Narnia, driving a sledge pulled by northern reindeer. His face was stern, but joyful, as he approached King Frank and Queen Helen and the Narnians. "I bring you greetings from Aslan, my friends. Greetings and gifts. This is the longest, coldest night, when hope of light and life seems farthest away. But I bring this present from the East: by Aslan's decree, this will be a day of feasting and gift-giving, for this day marks when the sun begins growing in strength. It is a day of hope; hope for the return of the sun and for the return of Aslan. Remember, friends, that the darkest days of Narnia will fall away at the command of the Lion."
And so Father Christmas, as he was named in the tongue of King Frank and Queen Helen's first home, gave out presents to every Narnian, to remind them of Aslan's promise. So we celebrate Christmas.
As he finished, the others echoed his words, "So we celebrate Christmas." Mr. Pevensie saw three pairs of eyes look to Edmund, whose face was stern and unyielding as he spoke:
I am Edmund; a servant of Aslan, who forgave me my treason and made me king. Hear now of the lost Christmas. He wasn't sure why, but Edmund's words, his tone of voice, caused a pit of sadness to grow in Mr. Pevensie's heart, though he did not know whether it was from the unyielding judgment that echoed when Edmund spoke of treason or the grief when he declared Christmas lost.
Nine hundred years after the creation of Narnia, her people faded from faith in their Creator. The Narnians forgot Aslan, and forgot that Christmas was Aslan's promise: their greedy eyes saw their presents only as deserved possessions. The Kings of Narnia neglected the Tree of Protection, which guarded their land from the evil that grew in strength beyond the borders.
The Tree fell on Christmas Eve, and the Narnians woke that Christmas to find, not presents, but chains. For Jadis, the White Witch, had come to Narnia. She brought with her ice and terror and endless darkness. By her evil power, she made Narnia into a land of perpetual snow. One hundred years of winter followed, and the saying became "always winter, never Christmas", for the Witch's dark magic kept out Father Christmas and her tyranny prevented even mothers and fathers from giving gifts to their children.
Edmund's voice changed, from grief to a fierce determination that blazed in his eyes.
She could not destroy hope, though, and Christmas lay buried in the hearts of those who remembered Aslan's promise: that the dark days would fall away again. So we awaited Christmas.
Again his siblings echoed his words, "So we awaited Christmas." There was a longer pause after this, and a tension rose among the group. Susan, whose turn it obviously was, shivered, though Mr. Pevensie did not think it was from the cold. Finally, just as Mr. Pevensie thought she was going to break and run from the others, Susan took a deep breath and spoke, her voice so low that he had a hard time hearing her.
I am Susan; a servant of Aslan, who strengthened me and made me queen. Hear now of the new Christmas. Oh, how Susan's voice shook when she called herself a servant of Aslan! But the words hung in the air, as if reminding the world that, beneath the mask of denial, truth survived.
At the end of that Hundred Year Winter, Aslan returned as He promised. Father Christmas followed, renewing the vow of the return of life and light. He gave gifts to the Narnians, gifts for the faith that they had shown in Aslan. On that day, Narnia rejoiced for their good fortune and wonderful presents.
Those gifts included the fulfillment of another prophecy, that of the fall of the White Witch. Two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve entered Narnia, and fought under the Lion's banner. Father Christmas gave them gifts as well; not toys as children would enjoy, but the instruments through which they would protect Narnia and heal her wounds.
And as winter melted into spring once more, Aslan triumphed over the Witch and renewed His promise of hope, the promise that we now celebrate this darkest day. So we rejoice in Christmas.
There was such joy in Peter, Edmund, and Lucy's faces as they echoed "So we rejoice in Christmas." Susan's eyes were wide, as if surprised she was able to speak at all. In fact, her eyes remained wide as she looked with her brothers towards their youngest sibling. The radiance that always seemed to rest in Lucy's face had magnified tenfold, and Mr. Pevensie had to turn away for a moment as she spoke.
I am Lucy; a servant of Aslan, who loves me and made me queen. Hear now of the True Christmas.
For centuries, Narnians have celebrated Christmas as the symbol of Aslan's promise, that the darkness would not endure, that light and warmth would come again. Each year He fulfills this promise by bringing spring. Twenty years ago He fulfilled the promise even further, by bringing Narnia out of the dark and cold of the White Witch.
In truth, though, His promise was not about the seasons, was not even about the White Witch. His promise concerns that which affects us all - death. It is the final darkness, which descends upon each Narnian in their turn. Death frightens us, as that first winter frightened our ancestors. But Aslan has given his promise: that death will fall away at His command and we will be renewed in life and light.
Death has already been defeated once. In the year of Christmas's return, Aslan gave His life to save a traitor during the darkest part of the night; but in the morning He conquered death and returned the light. As He did then, He will do again. So we truly know Christmas.
Mr. Pevensie found himself whispering "So we truly know Christmas" along with his children. Even though he did not know what Narnia was, did not know this Aslan, he instinctively understood that these words were why Lucy read the Easter story alongside that of Christmas.
Any other night, any other time of the year, and Mr. Pevensie imagined he might be disturbed by this recitation. Surely a Christmas story without Christ was heathen and disturbing. But, as he stared at his children, whose faces held the same glow of happiness they had in church not a few hours before, he rather thought that the story of endless winter and the conquest of death was not that far from the Truth.
Mr. Pevensie was pulled from his thoughts as Peter spoke again. "May Aslan fulfill his promise this year, and every year, until the final vow is realized and we meet Him in His country. Go, now, Narnians and be of good cheer, for Christmas comes again and Aslan has blessed this day. Praise Aslan!"
"Praise Aslan!" chorused the others, and Mr. Pevensie slipped away so that he might return home before the children noticed his presence. He had much to think about, much to pray over…not to mention presents to set out under the Christmas tree.
Had he stayed, Mr. Pevensie might have seen his children embrace each other tightly, smiles on all four faces. He might have watched them walk hand in hand back to the house. And he might have heard the soft purr of a lion drift down from the bright stars, washing over his children as they went to sleep, awaiting the promise of a new day.
I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!