Advent: A View from Down Under… Way Under

Regis Nicoll
Regis Nicoll

Over seventy years ago, C.S. Lewis disclosed a mysterious correspondence that became known as The Screwtape Letters, consisting of instructions to a novice demon from his netherworld mentor. What follows is a newly discovered document that bears eerie similarity:

Dear Swillpit,

It’s that time of year again! The weeks—no, months—of preparations for the Event reached febrile proportions just a few weeks ago. “Black Friday,” they call it. Oh, the irony!

On the same day of the week that an angry mob rushed to put a wooden cross on His back, bargain-crazed shoppers rush to put a financial one on theirs, buying gifts they can’t afford for people who don’t need them that wear out, break down, or become obsolete by the time the season rolls around next year—all to the melody that fills the retail aether, “White Christmas.”

Far and away, Swillpit, this is my favorite time of year. But it wasn’t always so.

For centuries we thought that His promise to “put enmity” between our Master and “the woman” was an idle threat. Then, out of nowhere, a young peasant Jewess is told that she will be “blessed.” The announcement sent shockwaves throughout our chattel-filled caverns. If true, it signaled; oh, no, it couldn’t, could it?

Down here the gnashing and wailing ramped up until Crumgrub, I think it was, picked up on a little but important detail that escaped our notice on first hearing: the girl was unmarried. That’s right, the vessel for his grand entrance would be an unwed teenager engaged to an old duffer.

We thought surely our old Rival couldn’t be serious. If the girl wasn’t stoned for adultery, her child would be born illegitimate. Either the lad would be snuffed out of existence before he drew a breath or he would be a social outcast. This was how he planned to “crush our Master’s head?” What an addle-brained scheme!

Someone snickered, setting off a chain reaction that exploded into a rumbling howl that, I have on good account, created a minor seismic event up there with all the nuisances of shifting tables and rattling pots.

Without delay, agents were dispatched to idlers known to have a quick eye for indiscretion and ready tongue for rumor. And, whew, did those tongues set to wagging at the first whiff of impropriety! Although the nattering didn’t result in our hoped-for stoning—largely, because of the dotard’s shocking decision to marry the girl—the rumor survived, if just below the surface of dinner conversation.

From time-to-time a knowing nod or hand-covered murmur revived memories about the questionable circumstances of his birth. It had the delightful effect of contributing to the general skepticism that ultimately led to his rejection and execution.

I recall my satisfaction, when he was hanging on the cross as a criminal, thinking how fitting—even poetic—that at the other end of his life he had been lying in a manger as a bastard. But my satisfaction was short-lived. Contiue reading here.

Originally published December 13, 2017.

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