Each year at Christmas the T.V. networks often broadcast what we call the "classics." These are the television programs that have become familiar favorites that many people over the years have watched and take on a special place of nostalgia in our lives. One of my favorites is "A Charlie Brown Christmas." I have often sympathized with Charlie Brown as his best efforts to fit in have often resulted in frustration. However, in this classic Christmas tale we come to see reflections of the Biblical Narrative surrounding the birth of Christ. For those who are unfamiliar with the story or need a quick review, Charlie Brown is upset and depressed over the commercialization of Christmas. Have any of you experienced these feeling? (Think of people stampeding over one another at Best Buy to get the latest and greatest electronic devices.) Charlie Brown visits his resident psychiatrist (a.k.a. Lucy) who suggests he think about directing the nativity play. When Charlie Brown arrives at rehearsals, he is once again in anguish as he sees his friends partying and dancing without any consideration for the true meaning of Christmas. Charlie Brown decides to bring a little Christmas reality to bear upon the situation by going out to purchase a Christmas tree. His friends encourage him to buy one of those "bright, shiny, aluminum trees." However upon arriving at the Christmas tree lot, Charlie Brown's attention and heart are captured by a small, sickly looking baby tree (ironically and symbolically it is the only real tree on the lot) which brings some concern and uncertainty to his friend Linus. Upon returning with the tree, he is mocked and ridiculed by his friends for once more making a "block headed" choice. In despair Charlie Brown expresses his concern that his friends are right and he may not really understand the true meaning of Christmas. What follows is a remarkable transformation beginning with Linus' recitation of the birth of Christ from the gospel of Luke 2:8-14. Charlie Brown makes a decision to try and salvage his mistake by taking the tree home and decorating it himself which once again ends in failure. His friends moved by Linus' "preaching of the gospel" have a heart change and decorate the tree unbeknownst to Charlie Brown. Upon discovering what they have done, the cartoon ends with Charlie Brown and his friends recognizing and experiencing the true meaning of Christmas as they sing "Hark The Herald Angels Sing."I have seen this cartoon many times and the overriding message can be easily discerned by anyone following the story. However as I meditated on this story I discovered some interesting Biblical insights. Mary and Joseph in some ways were the "Charlie Browns" in their day. Mary knew the baby she was carrying was special but she was written off like Charlie Brown as having made a poor choice in becoming pregnant. Joseph, like Linus, although uncertain about what lay ahead supported Mary. When they arrived in Bethlehem people were so caught up in the frenzied activity of the census that they paid little attention to the miracle in their midst. (Sounds a lot like the frenzy of Christmas shoppers who choose not to take the time to see the miracle in their midst.) Following the angel's announcement to the shepherds (quoted by Linus in the cartoon) it wasn't the frenzied people who responded but those who weren't even included in the census, whose hearts were touched and moved at the news of Christ's birth. That baby tree that moved Charlie Brown's heart was symbolic of the baby who still moves and changes people's hearts today. Charlie Brown was not swayed by the bright, shiny and artificial aluminum trees that his friends thought symbolized Christmas. And as Linus' recitation of the gospel changed the hearts of Charlie Brown's friends, so the Christmas story can change the hearts of humanity. Don't be fooled by the artificiality of Christmas. See what Charlie Brown saw on that tree lot, the potential, possibility, and power of what Christmas is all about. Let your heart be captured once again by the One who is the heart and soul of Christmas. "Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King!"
To God be the glory!