One of my favorite Christmas traditions in our home is watching Charles Schulz’ A Charlie Brown Christmas. Charlie Brown, the beloved Peanuts character, appears in our newspapers every week and especially on TV with the rest of the Peanuts gang during the holidays. The Peanuts comic strip is the most famous and influential comic strip of all time. Each character of the Peanuts comic strip is unique, memorable, and precious. The strip is a microcosm of a group of children and their stories. [Side note: I had a good laugh when my 4 year old Godchild astutely observed and asked,”Tija, where are their parents?”] Charles Schulz brilliantly portrays through the stories, messages with social, economic, religious, moral, psychological and philosophical impact.
I want to focus on two characters: Charlie Brown and Linus. The main character of Peanuts, Charlie Brown, is a boy who is moody most of the time with low self-esteem and someone who would likely see the glass as half-empty. Linus is depicted as a brainy child who is wise beyond his years, albeit, sucking his thumb with his blanket in his hands at all times.
Just like in every situation he finds himself in, Charlie Brown battles with more pessimism than optimism during the Christmas season. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie is surrounded by his friends who are enjoying their holidays from school. Meanwhile, a melancholy Charlie Brown, ponders and asks others what the real meaning of Christmas is. Charlie shares with Linus, “I think there must be something wrong with me. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I might be getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.” To which Linus, with his trusty blanket in hand, adorably answers, “Charlie Brown, you are the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy is right. Of all of the Charlie Browns in the world, you are the Charlie Brownest.”
To get Charlie into more of a Christmas spirit, one of his friends, Lucy, convinces him to be the director of their Christmas play. Hesitantly, Charlie agrees. As practice is under way, Charlie gets more and more frustrated by the disorder of it all and how Christmas seems to be centered around materialism. At one point, he gets fed up and yells, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
At that point, Linus enters and takes the spotlight. He starts reading from Luke 2.
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!'”
Something incredible which happens during the reading is that Linus drops his blanket. I believe Charles Schulz intentionally and brilliantly included it in the play. In the past, several characters have tried to cajole Linus to drop his blanket, to no avail. But when he reads this passage from Luke 2, he drops his blanket. The timing is also perfect that he drops it when he says, “Do not be afraid.” The one security that Linus holds onto for dear life is dropped at that moment. I don’t know about you, but I find that to be an incredibly powerful message.
We all have different blankets that we hold onto for security, significance, safety. We all have habits that we pound into ourselves for 10, 20, 30 or more years which separate us from God and from our purpose. We all struggle with fears and insecurities of different proportions.
On this Christmas Eve I’m here to tell you that we no longer need to live in fear because God chose to come down to this earth as a baby for you and for me.
Because of Christmas, we have good tidings of great joy.
Not just little bit of joy or fleeting joy.
But great joy.
When I was reading ‘So Long, Insecurity,’ by Beth Moore, there’s this line which one of her daughters told her which really stuck with me, “He knows it’s scary to be us.”
Because Jesus Christ came to this world—God became flesh and blood—he knows what it’s like to be us. Since his birth, he was labeled as an illegitimate child. He grew up as a child with brothers and sisters. He walked on this earth. He upheld mothers and hugged fathers. He welcomed children. He walked the streets and broke bread with young men and women. He had BFFs and he knew what it was like to be stabbed in the back. He partied with sinners and stood up for rejects. He saw suffering and healed the sick and comforted mourners. He suffered on a cross, between two criminals, dying, while his Father hid his face from him. God tasted death for you and me. And he rose victorious defeating death and sin, so that you and I will live with him forever.
I am thankful that we have this precious cartoon from 1965 to remind us of what Christmas is all about and that we no longer have to live as slaves to fear and to sin because of this: Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.