"THEY say Aslan is on the move – perhaps has already landed." The voice of Mr Beaver in C S Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, speaking to Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.
They have no idea who Aslan is, or the significance of these words. Even so, something in them jumps at the name of Aslan. Edmund feels "a sensation of horror" for reasons which become clear as we read the book, but the other three experience wonderful sensations of encountering something lovely and deeply meaningful.
Later, the Beavers describe Aslan as the great King and Lord of all. He's also a lion, which comes as something of a shock to the children. From this point in the story we are watching and waiting for the great Aslan to make his appearance on the pages of the book even though we don't know what that will mean.
Mark's Gospel in the New Testament, begins his account of "the good news of Jesus Christ" with words crafted to bring with them a sense of excitement and wonder.
As we prepare for Christmas we probably all have pictures in our minds of nativity scenes and plays we've encountered over the years: angels, shepherds, cows and a donkey, Mary and Joseph and, of course, a newborn baby.
When Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy learn that Aslan is a lion they're shocked and a little afraid: "Is he safe?" they ask. "Who said anything about safe?" says Mr Beaver, "Course he isn't safe. But he's good."
Perhaps we might be sensing a new challenge? The challenge to prepare the way of the Lord into our lives once again or to renew our search for purpose and meaning if we feel we're drifting aimlessly.
If we're busy, stressed and overwhelmed by all there is to do we may be challenged to clear a space, just a little one, for God to reach us; take just a little break from noisy busyness to listen for that still small voice speaking peace on earth.
Or we might be energised by an exciting urgent voice telling us to get up and do something to bring God's kingdom nearer. Perhaps we are called to be prophetic voices in our day, called to "speak tenderly" to God's people in preparation for the day when the glory of the Lord will once again be revealed.
Whatever challenge we may experience this Advent, whether it's unexpected and scary or reassuring and gentle, one thing we can be sure of is that our God is a God of goodness and love who wants only to see our salvation.