Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Harry Potter and Advent

So, I think there is a character more important symbolically than Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore or Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. So, you may be wracking your brain with thoughts of Cedric, Lupin, Sirius Black, Dobby, Hagrid or many other characters. To which I would say, “Good job…your HP knowledge is pretty awesome.” I think those of you who know me best would probably assume it has to be Neville Longbottom. But, though Neville is my favorite character in all of the series, I am actually referring to Fawkes. Fawkes is central to the relationship of Dumbledore and Voldemort, Dumbledore and Harry and ultimately Voldemort and Harry. How so? Most of you know, but Dumbledore owned Fawkes, who gave two feathers for wands, one being owned by Voldemort, the other by Harry. Ollivander says this in the very first book when Harry buys his wand. As a side note Ollivander is probably the creepiest character in the entire series. Others may be more slimy or inconsistent or evil, but none as creepy; well maybe Barty Crouch, Jr. could give him a run for his money.

Neville? Is that you buddy?
But here’s the deal with Fawkes being the symbol of the series (in my eyes) – Harry Potter is ultimately not about magic…it’s about life and death. I think The Deathly Hallows makes that clear. So the opposite of Fawkes would be not just Nagini, but all the horcruxes. When you juxtapose Fawkes and horcruxes here is what I think Harry Potter is all about – death, true life and hope in true resurrection versus fighting to maintain every bit of life you can in this life. That sounds like more of an Easter message, but here is how I see it in terms of Advent.

Fawkes is a phoenix. Phoenixes are known for several things, chief among them, they burst into flames and are reborn amongst the ashes. Again, great Easter message James, but we’re talking Advent and you said don’t crucify baby Jesus the other day on Facebook. True, but like Fawkes, Jesus’ entry into the world was the end of something and the beginning of something new. Depending on your understanding of two things—God in the Garden and Melchizedek—Jesus’ birth was the first time God took on flesh. It was the first time that Christians would say God incarnated in the world. Before this God came in Spirit or in voice or sent heavenly beings to speak in His stead.

For Jesus then, this was a rebirth. Gone were the days of being entirely God. Woah, James. Watch your heresy there bud. I know, it toes a thin line, but what I mean and am trying to communicate is that Jesus experienced being human for the first time…not that He become less than God. Jesus experienced the limitations of flesh (think His temptations in the desert or even His death on the cross), Jesus felt all sorts of crazy irrational emotions (think the Scripture that said Jesus experienced all things common to man). In other words, Jesus’ experience was completely new, because he had this thing we call flesh added to what He was in spirit. Gone up in flames were the days of divinity alone. Again…not trying to be heretical or limit the power of Jesus. Just communicating that Jesus now could fully empathize with humanity because He experienced life from their vantage, okay? Good. Now please don’t report me to the council that decides I could be burned at the stake for heresy after you finish this. Still maintain as the Church has for a long time – fully God, fully man.

Many people may not realize this, chief amongst them Protestants and Evangelicals, but Advent starts the calendar year. So, this year, the Church calendar started December 1. That is opposed to January 1 or approximately August 15, or July 1 or April 16 or many of the other calendar years that we mark as the start of some kind of calendar. What we celebrate in the Advent is the start of new things. To carry on the symbol, the phoenix burst into flames on November 30, and was reborn in the wee hours of the morning December 1. Advent is celebration of new life, not from the perspective of resurrection, which is of ultimate importance to our faith, but from incarnation.

As I watched the first 5 HP movies the last few days (and would have finished 6-8 had I not leant them to a friend) I started noting the importance of Fawkes. I think Fawkes subconsciously leads the way for Harry to give up his life at the end of the book. I find it akin to one of those moments that we observe someone who doesn’t know we are watching them. For instance one time when I saw my neighbor Chandler playing in the back yard with his kids. He was just doing his thing, not thinking anything about who was watching. He was just loving on his kids, and it taught me a little bit about how God cares for us…His kids. Or like the time in high school where Mr. Futrell caught me telling a lie. He didn’t get up in my face at the time. He let it slide. Then at a teachable moment he confronted me, not with accusation, but with the truth of, “When I hear you lie, how I can trust you are telling me the truth later.” That was more powerful than yelling, “You liar” in the moment. And those observations were a bit more subconscious than they were lessons taught in a classroom. They weren’t important in the moment, but after something else triggered the lesson later in life.

Somehow my little Thanksgiving marathon of Harry Potter stirred my heart for the upcoming Advent season. It helped me see that opposed to fighting to make every moment matter in this life, and worrying that it won’t, I can instead fully live into the moment I am in now. That doesn’t mean every moment has to be a crazy adventure like climbing Mt. Everest, it just means that having coffee with a friend is the moment it should be. I’m not wasting my life with that cuppa joe…that is my life. It helps me to remember that every moment is new birth. At the end of my days I want to be in loving reminiscence or even still seeking new adventures as opposed to regretting what I missed. Fawkes shows me a bit about incarnation, and sure, a lot more about resurrection. But as we celebrate the incarnation, remember that December 1 your life began anew. You are already emerging out of the flames into new experience and new life. And as Bob Goff writes over and over…live that new life whimsically.