Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Charlie Brown Christmas - Part 1

For many, Christmas is a real bad time of year. And this is so for various reasons from living on after a loved one dies to going through war at Christmas time. I know of people who go away for Christmas each year because the holiday reminds them that their husband died at that time of year. And I’ve read several autobiographies of men who fought in the Battle of the Bulge who find no joy at Christmas because they spent the Christmas of 1944 in the woods of Belgium, freezing and fighting and getting shelled and shot at.

For me, Christmas is usually just like the songs say it’s supposed to be – White Christmas, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Silent Night. But I also know it isn’t that way for many people.

In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown identifies a very important truth. That Christmas-time is supposed to be a time of year of joy and family and good feelings, but for many people it is not.

Charlie Brown knows he should be happy at this time of year, but isn’t. He hasn’t figured out why and I think that we can relate to him and learn something from him. Many people have not been looking forward to this time of year, if not actually dreading it. And this is nothing new.

We tend to think that a cynical view of the Christmas season is something relatively new. But A Charlie Brown Christmas is now 43 years old!

Actually, we can see that a cynical view of the Christmas season goes back even further.

The December 23rd, 1900 “edition of the Chicago Tribune carried an editorial which … decried the cynicism surrounding Christmas. It pointed out that gift giving had become a matter of calculation and vulgar display. The happy occasion had left people with empty pocketbooks, blasted expectations, and the pains associated with overeating and indigestion.” [Chicago Christmas, Jim Benes, page 11]

Even 108 years ago, the cry of Charlie Brown was loud and clear.

I think that we can identify with Charlie Brown – that we know in our hearts that we should be happy at this time of year, but we’re not. There’s something inside of us, deep down, that tells us that Christmas is a happy time of year. And that something, that voice, is correct. The coming of Jesus Christ, being born, is good news. But there’s a lot of history, a lot of the world, a lot of our own fears and insecurities that are piled on top of that voice, which is trying to drown out that voice. And I wonder who has a vested interest in that? Hmmmm.

Let’s see if we cannot recapture the good feeling of this time of year. Let’s see how Charlie Brown did it.
First he goes to Lucy to talk about it. Lucy’s initial advice is to pinpoint fears. That’s an interesting first move. Could it be that Charlie Brown is feeling depressed because he’s afraid of something? Could he be afraid of being happy? Could he be afraid of being disappointed by Christmas? Could he be afraid of stairs?

Fear is one of the reasons, I think, that there are bad feelings at this time of year.
People are afraid of Christmas because this will be the first Christmas without a husband or a daughter.
People are afraid of Christmas because they know they will be disappointed with the gifts they get.
People are afraid of Christmas because there won’t be any gifts because there isn’t any job.

I think Lucy is on to something here with Charlie Brown. Fear is at the core of not being happy. But it isn’t the surface fears that Lucy mentions. It is a more basic fear.

Who’s truly afraid of Christmas? Who is afraid of the birth of the Son of God? Who is afraid of God-becoming-man so that He can die to save the sins of all the people?

That’s right. Satan. The Devil. The Evil One. That’s where all this bad feeling comes from! Once we recognize that, we’re on the road to recovering what God has given us at Christmas!

An integral part of recovering what God has given us at Christmas is to understand what Christmas is all about. Charlie Brown admits that he doesn’t really know. Lucy’s answer is involvement. If Charlie Brown gets involved with other people, then he’ll discover what Christmas is all about and that will lead him to recover the good feeling that he’s searching for.

That’s pretty good advice, actually. Get involved. God intended that for us from the very beginning. God intends for us to be involved with other people.

The involvement here is being involved with God and His Kingdom. There’s something powerful about being involved in the Kingdom of Light. The reason we can be part of this powerful kingdom is because God is involved in our lives. He created us. He guides us with His Law, and He became one of us at Christmas! Follow God’s lead by being involved in His Church, with other Christians, and ultimately you’ll find the peace and the happiness that God intends for you.

Like Charlie Brown, we make our excuses. But being involved means you’ll get help, just as Lucy is ready to help Charlie Brown.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that Lucy knows exactly how to help Charlie Brown. She doesn’t. She doesn’t actually know the real reason for Christmas anymore than Charlie Brown does. She reveals this when she tells him what she really wants for Christmas (what she really wants each year is real estate).

This is important. Sometimes we head into the Christmas season with expectations that God never intended us to have. And most of the time, we were extremely disappointed because those expectations were not met. Thus, we don’t look forward to Christmas the way we feel we should. That, I think, is the number one reason we find ourselves in Charlie Brown’s boat at this time of year. We have unrealistic expectations and we’re afraid those expectations will not be met. We bring our expectations of what we think Christmas should be and miss what Christmas actually is.

We know we should be happy, but we’re not. We need to explore what we are afraid of, realize where those fears come from, and then we can begin to understand what Christmas actually is by being involved with other people in learning and worshiping God for the gift of Jesus Christ, gift that first came at Christmas and continues to come to us today.

©2008 True Men Ministries.

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