By Roberto Mussinatto
There are a few days left before Christmas, and we can already feel in the air this soft joy and sense of waiting which make Christmas different from any other celebration in the year.
We feel like something we were looking for is ready to come; it seems like nature feels it, too. It is as if the whole universe is waiting with us.
This kind of cosmological description is deeply related with Christmas. Since the first stories about Jesus’ birth were written, they were full of these elements: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time, as we wait eagerly for the redemption,” (Romans 8:22-23) says St. Paul. Jesus’ birth was a long-anticipated relief, and witnessed by miracles indicating the whole of creation was celebrating, as well.
This is also what happens at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. In the first chapter, we witness the events of this extraordinary day through the eyes of Mr. Dursley, who proudly considers himself and his family an average family, without anything strange or mysterious about them. But on that day, strange and miraculous events are inevitable.
In front of his house there is a weird cat reading a map and checking a sign at the corner of the street. On his way to work, he finds many strangely dressed people gossiping about something that happened to the Potters, his sister in law’s family. What’s more, owls fly all day long in the sky, in a way nobody had ever seen. The evening news report talks about the strange owl behavior, adding also that shooting stars were seen all over Kent, Yorkshire and Dundee. All nature seems to Mr. Dursley in turmoil.
What Mr. Dursley ignores is that something new has happened: a baby was born, and he defeated the Dark Lord, You-Know-Who, Voldemort. That baby has saved his world from the mortal threat of the darkness: his birth introduced a new light in a dark world, and now, everything is different. Those who know what happened recognize him as the savior, and celebrate.
Many particulars of the Harry Potter’s birth description remind us what the Gospels, canonical and not, say about Jesus. In fact, in the apocryphal Gospel of James, the author uses the same rhetorical figures to describe the birth in Bethlehem: all nature remains still, watching Mary bring Jesus into the world, and Joseph marvels at the miracle. These elements are less emphasized in the other Gospels narrations, but Luke’s account mentions the census issued by Augustus and Quirinius as the governor of Syria, putting Jesus’ birth in historical and universal context, conveying the idea that from this moment onward, the entirety of history has changed. Furthermore, Luke describes the angels who appear to the shepherds: all nature stills before the manifestation of God’s glory, which shines all around sky and hills.
Harry Potter, like Jesus, is born with his death already forecast, a death required to save others. Harry follows Jesus’ path of self-sacrifice, giving up his life to defeat Voldemort forever. Foretold by prophets, witnessed by signs and miracles and the groaning of nature itself, willingly offered up to save the world: their lives are a gift to others, a hope in the darkness.
Roberto Mussinatto studies History at the University of Turin. His interests include the social history of Medieval Age, philosophy, and literature. Follow him on Medium: https://medium.com/@robertomussinatto