The following is from a talk I delivered at Covenant Classical School.
There have been several “Dark Ages” – a term historians use for various reasons. The Greeks had one, Europe as a whole had one after the fall of the Roman Empire, America had one with the premiere of Cats and West Side Story, and Britain had one after the Romans gave up their attempts to conquer it. Britain has a strange story to it…
It is believed that it was first populated by groups of people who migrated, or rather ran for their lives, from parts of Asia (most likely areas of Russia). They were running from the Huns who had a strange liking for killing and stealing. So, when the Huns entered a land, the smart people left. Some of those smart people ran all the way to Britain, an island off the Northwestern coast of Europe.
When they got there, they breathed a huge sigh of relief, perhaps because they believed Huns incapable of swimming that far, but most likely because they were no longer being chased at all and they had finally found home. Unfortunately for them, the Romans also had their eyes on Britain, particularly Caesar. But, to make a long story short, in this detail at least, the Romans were unsuccessful. They could not conquer those strange Celts who painted themselves blue and met them on the shores ready to fight. So, the Romans went back home, leaving the Celts alone to settle into their new home.
Once again, however, the Celts or British were not left alone for long. This time, the invaders were the Angles and Saxons of north Germany. They began to slowly take over land in Britain, but most of them did so peacefully. They were looking for farmland, not empires, and so they settled alongside the Celts or British.
But, in the northwestern part of Britain, violence did erupt. Strange men came from the Northeast – the Scandinavian islands (particularly Norway). They were known as “Vikings” because that was the term they used to refer to looking for new land – “I go i viking.” The Celts did their best to fight off these violent invaders but were mostly unsuccessful. Land was taken, people were killed (even priests and monks), and the British people cried out in hope of someone to rescue them.
These cries for help are connected with the legend of King Arthur. There is a chronicle dated around 829 A.D. that tells of a King Arthur who, on at least 12 occasions, fought off some of the Saxon invaders, but there is not much other written detail about him. With time, the story of King Arthur, the savior of Britain, grew to include the tales of Merlin, Guinevere, Sir Galahad, Sir Lancelot, the Round Table, the Holy Grail, and the Sword in the Stone. Even beyond that, the legend concluded with the promise that, though Arthur had died, he would one day return to rule over all of Britain, defeating her enemies and bringing peace to all the people.
This legend became quite entrenched. In fact, in 1113, some French priests were visiting northern Britain and there they were told of the legend of King Arthur and the promise that he would return from the dead to rescue the British forever. These French priests began to laugh at the tale and the people around them reacted so violently that they began to pelt them with raw vegetables!
The legend of Arthur has never left the British mind or ours, for that matter. It has given rise to numerous tellings and re-tellings – Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, The Once and Future King by T.H. White, and The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle; just to name a few.
It is a story of hope and redemption; the story of a Promised One who is the rightful ruler of all he surveys, who rescues his people and punishes his enemies. It is a story that rings out through all cultures and civilizations, with only the specifics separating them. Why does this story stand the test of time? Because it is the story on which all time is based. Why does this story remain in the hearts of men? Because it is a story that is written in the hearts of men. It is, first and foremost, the story of the Bible. It is God’s story.
Our lives and the world in which we live them are a story, being told by God, a narrative that spans all of history, before it and after it. Our lives are, essentially, the time we are on stage in the story and our characters show up with the back story in our hearts. We like stories because we are in the most glorious one. We like princes, kings, dragons, battles, triumphs, promises, hope, and happy endings because those things are in us, stamped by our Creator.
Your teachers let you read them and we want you to write them, love them, and live them, because we want your lives to reflect the story that your Maker is telling.
It’s an irresistible story and even the enemies of God fit into it…they just play the enemies; but their end is just as certain. In real life, many people live in rebellion to God, acting as if the world is theirs to be figured out and ruled. They are the Saxons, the Vikings, but notice that they are in the story nonetheless.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding come only through “fear of the LORD;” honoring Him as God and Lord over all. The lives that we live are part of the greatest story and only when we honor the author of that story does life begin to make sense and take on the beauty and meaning it was written to have.