Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Charlie Brown Christmas - Part 2

We need to be involved, both with God and with others. This is how A Charlie Brown Christmas starts. Charlie Brown is not happy even though he knows he should be at Christmas time. Lucy’s advice to him is get involverd as the director of the Christmas play.

We need to be involved, both with God and with others. This is the heart of the 10 Commandments – Love God and Love Your Neighbor.

God gives us the power to be involved with Him and our neighbors by first becoming involved with us – He became one of us when Jesus was born.

What we do with that involvement is important, not only to having the Christmas that God wants for us, but also to have the abundant life that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10).

The problem is that when we are not involved with God, when we don’t realize just how much He is involved with us (by becoming a human being just like us), we try to find involvement on our own. That leads to a happy-go-lucky existence or a self-centered existence.

Charlie Brown is looking for happiness at Christmas time. He knows he should be happy, but since he doesn’t really understand what Christmas is all about, he can’t find that happiness. Lucy’s suggestion of involvement is a good one, because it puts Charlie Brown where he needs to be to understand what Christmas is all about – but more on that at another time.

Charlie Brown knows that Christmas-time is supposed to be a time of joy and good feelings. I wonder if that isn’t ingrained in us from the beginning of our lives. It certainly is a promise that God made a long, long time ago. God has promised us that Christmas is supposed to be joyful. The messengers of God tell us that Christmas is “good news of great joy, which is for all people.”

The prophets Isaiah and Nahum said, centuries before Christmas, record the promise that it would be Good News.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" – Isaiah 52:7

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…. - Isaiah 61:1

Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace! Celebrate your festivals, O Judah, and fulfill your vows. No more will the wicked invade you; they will be completely destroyed. - Nahum 1:15

Christmas is a time of joy, of Good News, of happiness. The first step to finding that happiness is involvement. But it has to be involvement the way that God intends. We cannot invent our own. We can’t go about this our own way.

Sarah tried that with Abraham and Hagar.
Rachel tried that with Jacob and her handmaiden.

In A Charlie Brown Christmas we see that the kids have their own ideas about “involvement” and what happiness at Christmas should be. For the kids it is doing what they want to do. If there is anything “dated” about A Charlie Brown Christmas, this might be it. In the middle of the 60’s “do your own thing” was all the rage. Whatever makes you feel happy, do that. I don’t think this story is quite that blatant about it, but it does hint at this philosophy – if it makes you happy, do it. Of course, that isn’t really “dated” at all. It is the original sin!

Whenever, that is tried – and that happiness is not tied to what God has done for us in Jesus – than happiness is rarely, if ever, found. True joy can only be found in God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When you are involved in God through Jesus, joy is found every single time. Every single time!

Let’s get back to director Charlie Brown. He starts assigning parts – shepherds, in-keepers and their wives, and the animals. We all have a role to play in this life. God is the great author of this epic story of salvation and life. A story that began long before we were born, in which God gives us a part that is our very own. We have been given the costumes, props, and lines, if you will. We all have a part. But remember that Christ is the star, the lead character in this epic story. We have supporting roles.

Yet, we tend to try to make our role the starring role. This is what I call self-centeredness. Lucy is a great example. Her part is “The Christmas Queen.” She’s made her part up, hasn’t she? I mean, I don’t remember a Christmas Queen in the Bible, do you?

Making our part greater than it’s supposed to be, and doing things our own way, is all part of the “problem of Christmas” that Charlie Brown has identified. It is about expectations. Remember what Lucy wanted for Christmas? Sally – Charlie Brown’s little sister – also has expectations of what Christmas is supposed to be that is based on self-centeredness. Making up our own role is part-and-parcel of having unrealistic expectations.

When it comes to Christmas, many people have expectations that, if not met, seem to ruin Christmas. Or at least disappoint us about Christmas.

I was the king of expectations when it comes to Christmas. Growing up, even into my young adult years, there were certain things that I felt must happen for me to have a joyful and happy Christmas.

- There must be snow on the ground – because of one of my favorite songs (White Christmas).
- I must be able to watch
o A Charlie Brown Christmas
o It’s a Wonderful Life
o The Bishop’s Wife
- I must be able to walk down State Street and Michigan Ave. in Chicago sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Those of you who know me might be thinking that nothing has changed for me. I still do all these things at this time of year. Which is true. But what has changed is my expectations of Christmas. You see, there’s nothing wrong with doing these things, just as there is nothing wrong with dancing like in A Charlie Brown Christmas. It all comes back to the heart of the matter. Why do we do these things?

Do we do them in order to make Christmas a joyful time of year? Or do we do them in response to the joy that is ours at this time of year because of what God has done for us?

Charlie Brown tries to make things go his way. He tries to do things the way he thinks they should be done. And we see the result. Good grief!

But if we truly understand the great gift that is the heart of Christmas, everything we do will be a response! If we start with the Gift of Jesus Christ and the salvation He brings through His death and resurrection, then this truly can be the most wonderful time of year.

©2008 True Men Ministries.

No comments: