When I was growing up, Christmas was a much simpler affair than it is today.
I usually received one main present from my parents, and the Christmas I was 5, that present was "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".
If you think that sounds a little grown-up for a 5 year old, all I can say is that my parents knew their daughter very well.
I'll always remember sitting on the floor beside our once-a-year, Christmas-time-special fire, leaning against my father's legs as he read the first chapter.
I remember even more clearly using the Ladybird torch that had appeared in my stocking that morning to read on, under the bedclothes, far into that night.
THIS was the book that turned me into a reader - no longer a passive recipient, dependent on my parents but one who was quickly reading every book in the house, suitable or no. My parents NEVER suggested that any text was inappropriate - they just left me free to graze...and I did, with joy.
My Puffin paperback copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe fell apart when my children were of primary-school age, because I had read it again and again...It was the friend I returned to whenever I needed comfort or delight.
Not all of it, though.
After a couple of readings, I simply could not bear to read of the death of Aslan on the Stone Table. A leaden feeling would overtake me as I walked, like Susan and Lucy, beside the great lion. When he went on alone towards the table, my reading stopped. Eventually I committed the cardinal sin of trying to stick those pages together so that the sadness simply did not happen.
It didn't work. Even when I was no longer reading the words, I knew they were there and would weep anyway - until the dawn broke and resurrection came.
Years later, as a Reader for Children's Ministry in a group of Cotswold villages, I chose that resurrection passage as a reading at our Easter Sunday Eucharist. The first year, Hatti Gandhi read it rather beautifully, and it then became a tradition at the All Age Eucharist for Easter. My children still tend to feel that there's something missing if they don't hear it every year and I wonder if there are others, that whole generation of Great Rissington children now grown whose first thought when they sing
"Ye choirs of new Jerusalem" is of Aslan leaping over the Stone Table - "whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind..."
To be honest, I'm not sure how I'd feel if this were the case. For many a long year my adult relationship with Jesus suffered because, truly, I so wanted him to be a lion...As we make our way through the Narnia books, we've a way to go before we reach the point in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Aslan says to the children
"This is the very reason why you were brought into Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little you may know me better in your own world. There I have a another name..."
In the (very) long run, I guess you could say it worked for me!