“Load of old nonsense” he says. “Hobbits. Elves. Talking trees. Fairy tales for kids.”
“Dad,” I say. “You love it! You’ve got Game on Thrones on box set. That’s hardly real life either.”
He snorts. “Yes. But I don’t really believe it. Some people believe it.”
The conversation turned to orcs and banana bread, before I had the chance to respond. But thinking it through, I don’t agree. I think we all believe in fairytales; or at least, we want to. TV is full of them: from the possibility of meeting Peter Andre in the frozen peas aisle (Iceland), to a CGI penguin that finds true love on Christmas Day. You can’t move in the local shopping centre for “Frozen” merchandise and piped promises of perfection. And it sounds so lovely; we want to believe it. We want to live it.
After all, why else am I scrabbling around for a “comedy” jumper for Glen on Christmas Eve? Or risking life and limb for a jigsaw for mum? Why? Because that’s not just a jumper; it’s a reminder that this wife is practical, but also fun. She has An Excellent Sense of Humour. You were Right to Marry Her. You know this because she has bought you a sweatshirt with a reindeer. What more could you possibly want?
In the same way, that’s not just a jigsaw for Mum. It’s a message: “I love you. I know what you enjoy. Sit down and put your feet up.” Another piece in The Perfect Christmas. A slice of the fairy tale that all of us want.
I think that’s part of the reason why many of us find Christmas so difficult. This morning I was praying for a young woman who has everything to live for – but tried to take her own life. The friend who’s lost her mother. The couple who have recently broken up. We desperately want the fairy tale. But real life doesn’t deliver. And so sometimes we plunge into the gap between the dream and the reality.
So what do we say to the young person with bandaged wrists? Or the grieving mother?
“There’s no such thing as fairytales. But let’s watch Frozen and hide together under the duvet?”
Or – can we offer real hope? Can we say, with Tolkein, that “fairy tales are not lies.”
Glen did a cracking sermon on this issue, this morning, (I’ll post link when it’s up). In it, he talks about Tolkein’s definition of a fairy tale:
1. a story where there’s love without parting
2. life triumphing over death
3. good triumphing over evil and
4. a hero who wins through sacrifice.
Forget the fantasy orcs. And forget the advertiser’s promises. This is the gospel. This is the real thing.
A prince who dies. A bride who’s rescued. An everlasting kingdom. A proper happily ever after.
Real hope. Real peace. Real life.
Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance;
The recompense of God will come,
But He will save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
Then the lame will leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.
For waters will break forth in the wilderness
And streams in the Arabah.