To be merry-hearted is to be bravely and innocently cheerful. While neither forceful or violent, the merry-hearted are powerful agents of good. Their presence in every story means hope and overcoming the darkness.
Think of every character you’ve truly loved in stories who have modeled this during dark hours. Brave and cheerful, willing to celebrate and cultivate acts of delight despite shadows, hardships, and threats. Tom Bombadil. Sam. In Ratty’s cheerful countenance with Mole making the best of what they find in Mole’s neglected hole. You see it in Hobbit homes and in the beloved Inn in Elizabeth Goudge’s Herb of Grace (Pilgrims’s Inn). You see it in The Green Ember and in the Wingfeather Saga. You see it in Luna Lovegood. You hear it in the bright voice of Father Christmas.
You see it in Narnia everywhere, but perhaps nowhere quite so poignant as the scene in the chapter titled “Aslan is Near” of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. A marvelous little Christmas breakfast tea is taking place among a small party of squirrels, an old fox, a dwarf, and two satyrs. This marvel is the gift of Father Christmas – a merry-making gift of good tidings. The elder of this happy company, the Fox, is about to offer a glad toast, standing with glass in hand ready to cheer that Spring is come and with it the certainty that Aslan is on the move! The grip of the White Witch is breaking. Christmas has come again to Narnia. Christmas after 100 years of winter! Then, just as their joy peaks, the sledge of the White Witch comes upon the festive gathering and she demands an account of what they are doing. Not only is she terrifying with the power to kill them, she accuses them of gluttony, waste and self-indulgence. She interrogates them about where such lovely provender has come from. The Fox – being the eldest and bravest – tries to deflect the danger but also he tells the truth. Father Christmas gave them these gifts. Enraged with the truth that her reign is coming to an end and that she is losing control of Narnia, The White Witch calls him a liar, but a young squirrel seals their fates, squealing “He has – he has – he has!” And in that moment she raises her wand and turns them all to stone statues. This moment is also a turning point for Edmund, who for the first time in the story feels sorry for someone besides himself.
Our situation is truly much like that. Yes, the enemy is still present and seems to have the upper hand so far, but everywhere we look – if we choose to look – there is evidence that Good prevails. Beauty is peeking out at us at every turn. Goodness is being practiced by multitudes quietly and faithfully. Truth shines out all the more beautiful and glittering in the deepening shadows of the world. I find in my heart, like Puddleglum in The Silver Chair, that I would rather be found standing ready to toast Aslan’s return and be turned to stone for it, than be cowering somewhere silent and afraid to live bravely at all.
We make merry for our self.
We make merry for others.
We make merry for the Lord.
Making merry is an act of defiance against the enemy that would have us each enslaved to the belief that hope is groundless. Making merry is an act of carrying out our charge to encourage and inspire, to kindle hope in those who need it. Making merry is not trivial, and done from a place of belief, it is indeed a profound and lingering act of standing on the truth which sets us free. Christ was born. God came to live with us. Not just huddle in the shadows with us, weep in our sorrows, grieve in our sins and, lament in our losses. He came to live with us in all the common good of daily earthly life. The daily, earthly life He invented and spoke into existence. He came to eat with us, build things with us, laugh with us, sing and make merry with us, dance with us, tell stories, enjoy art and music and pottery and calligraphy with us, design and plant gardens with us, solve problems with us, and even wink at us in the kitchen.
When we make merry, we rehearse in life what we assent in our hearts to be true. That the Lord has won the battle, that the enemy has already truly lost, and that Good in fact prevails. When we choose to make merry even on the smallest scale, we declare that the Lord is King, and we give Him glory. We make merry in any true and good way, we light our own candle and we light it for another who can in turn light it for another. We adorn the dark by declaring that we are not afraid and that we are not beaten.
The featured image titled “Christmas Fox” is (c) Lancia E. Smith and used with her glad permission for The Cultivating Project.
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is the Founder & Executive Director of Cultivating & The Cultivating Project. She has served in executive management, church leadership, boards, and Art & Faith organizations over 30 years. She & her husband Peter have parented 7 children, & have a flock of beloved grandchildren. Lancia loves garden and website design, beautiful typography, road trips, being read aloud to by Peter, & cherishes every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.