In the days before DVDs and Netflix, some of us can remember anxiously waiting on Saturday evenings leading up to the holidays for the Charlie Brown TV specials at Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. After the premiere of A Charlie Brown Christmas on December 9, 1965, our understanding of Christmas may forever be intertwined with Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and Snoopy.
Nearly 50 years later, the brilliance of Charles Schultz, Charlie Brown’s creator, still shines through because the heart of the show is so poignant today – everyone just needs some love, especially at the holidays.
Sent to buy a Christmas tree for the school pageant, a hapless Charlie Brown walks through a tree lot filled with large, brightly colored, and boisterously adorned trees. Passing by all the elaborate, gaudy trees, he picks out a pathetic little one with scarcely three branches. Not surprisingly, the Peanuts gang laughs at him until Charlie Brown throws down his megaphone and asks if anyone knows the real meaning of Christmas. Linus then explains the true meaning of Christmas, as told to us in Luke 2:8.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For until you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men.”
The good tidings of great joy passage reminds every one of the Peanuts gang that the sad little tree, like all of us, just needs some love.
Every year our gripes about how Christmas has become over-commercialized seem to dominate conversation and how Jesus has been slowly taking a back seat to gift giving. Charlie Brown asked that question nearly 50 years ago and another famous character, the Grinch, told us, “Maybe Christmas isn’t something that comes from a store.”
But as Charlie Brown learns, Christmas is what we make of it.
The story of Christmas itself provides us with the gestures of generosity and thankfulness and reminds us that what is most important are the people in our lives, people who need our love, not just our gifts.
At the heart of all the excitement surrounding Christmas each year there should be the desire to do good deeds for others, which may take the form of gifts from big box retailers while other times those gifts may come straight from the heart and hands of the giver.
Christmas celebrates a birth and a beginning, promising so much more than life usually yields.
The true meaning of Christmas, as Linus reminds us, is always there. Sometimes we just have to be reminded.
Charles Schultz got it right when he said, “Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.”