The actors were great. The special effects were wonderfully done. The story was well told. It taught great moral lessons: —(as listed by Peter Chattaway) "It takes bravery to stand up to your enemies but even more bravery to stand up to your friends; evil isn't always as obvious as you think it is; sacrificing yourself for the greater good is a good thing; and, perhaps most important of all, it is better to be loved than to know all the tricks of wizardry."
But the thing that absolutely captivated me was the magic. Yes, I know the Bible condemns such, but I don’t mean “magic” in a technical sense, but magic in the general sense that there is more to this world than the humdrum and the coldly rational and material. Harry Potter points to the possibility that beyond, and around, and beside the material world is one of magic, miracle and wonder. The two worlds are not entirely separate either. They impinge upon one another, and travel is possible between them in both directions at “King's Cross, platform 9 3/4” and other places.
This view is foreign to our modern scientific one, but one which is common to all our fairy tales whether it be Alice in Wonderland, or Peter Pan, or The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. The amazing thing is that with our scientific world view, the fairy tales persist. We think we have left them behind with our childhood, but their power often recaptures us unawares, as many adults have been captured by the Harry Potter stories. We realize anew that a materialistic, scientific world view is too shallow. It explains too little. We live in a universe of magic. We just know it.
That is what captivates us about the Christmas story too with its talk of angels singing to shepherds, and a Visitor from the greater world coming among us. It, like Harry Potter, describes a momentous struggle between the forces of evil and good with the promise that good is the stronger and in the end will triumph.
Frederick Buechner has written, “No matter how forgotten and neglected, there is a child in all of us who is not just willing to believe in the possibility that fairy tales are true after all but who is to some degree in touch with that truth.”
We are never more in touch with it than we are at Christmas, when we celebrate a fairy tale become fact.
©2001 C. David Hess