Friday, November 30, 2012

Loving Charlie Brown

Christmas is just around the bend now, and TV channels are already starting to play all those Christmas-themed movies and specials we know and love. With that in mind, I thought I would spend a few weeks talking about some of my favorites. Those who know me well may recognize some of this from a sermon series I did during the Advent season last year.

Today: A Charlie Brown Christmas

We all know the Christmas season is supposed to be a joyful one. We fill out cards, share a big family meal, exchange presents, and just generally have a good time. We decorate our trees and sing our carols as we reflect on the love we share. And for so many people, it's a season filled with smiles and laughter and gladness. But for so many others, it's not.

One person who struggles to find happiness this time of year is Charlie Brown, star of Charles M. Schulz’s popular Peanuts cartoon strip. Normally, we expect our heroes/stars to be brave, self-sufficient, strong, intelligent, outspoken, successful, good-looking, optimistic - but generally speaking, Charlie Brown is none of those things. Instead, poor little Charlie Brown is insecure, bald, and seems to have a permanent case of bad luck. He is what you might call a "born loser". His friends call him "Blockhead", his baseball team always loses, and Lucy always moves the football away before he can kick it.

And so, every year, when A Charlie Brown Christmas comes on (as it has without fail since 1965), it comes as no surprise that Charlie Brown has a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. While everybody else is happy and excited, Charlie Brown feels misplaced. In fact, these are his first lines in the special:
"I think there must be something wrong with me. Christmas is coming, but I don't feel happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel. I just don't understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I'm still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed."
Later, we hear him explaining to Lucy:
"I just don't understand it. Instead of feeling happy, I feel sort of let down."
No Christmas cards todayOf course, Charlie Brown is just a fictional character, but maybe he's more than just a two-dimensional drawing. His creator, Charles Schulz, once talked about Charlie Brown as a sort of self-portrait, based on his own insecurities and self-doubts. So while the character is made up, the way he feels is something very real. I imagine that if you don't personally identify with Charlie Brown right now, you probably know someone who does. For these people, nothing that comes in a gift-wrapped box will ever fill the void they feel inside. Maybe they're homesick or lonely. Perhaps they're haunted by memories of happy Christmases past or loved ones who are no longer here to celebrate with them, and there's no way in their minds for this year to compete with the way it used to be.

Do you know someone who feels a little unloved this holiday season? Poor Charlie Brown sent out Christmas cards to all his friends, and every day he checks his box to discover he's gotten none in return.
"Rats! Nobody sent me a Christmas card today. I almost wish there weren't a holiday season. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?"
What can possibly give the Charlie Browns of this world any reason for hope or joy?

I think the answer lies in remembering the reason for the season. Just as Charlie Brown learned in the program, Christmas is about more than just presents and cards. In our special, when Charlie Brown finally gets to his breaking point, he cries out in a loud voice, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" And then Linus steps in with the explanation, quoting from Luke 2:8-14.

Christmas is about the love of God. It's about how God loves each and every person so much that he was willing to send his Son to be born in human form so that he might show us how to live and then die for us and become our Savior. And this season is about sharing the love of God with others, helping them to understand that they are loved, even if they don't feel like it.

Shepherds in Bible days were not very highly respected. They were dirty people who lived with the animals in the wild. They were generally looked down upon. But the angels came to the shepherds to declare the great love of God to them, that God had sent his Son even for them, and it changed their lives!

Similarly, Advent and Christmas give us a wonderful opportunity to share the love of God with others who may be wondering whether or not anyone cares for them. This is illustrated well at the end of the special with the story of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.

"Everything I touch gets ruined!"If you remember, the Peanuts gang sends Charlie Brown to pick out a Christmas tree. Somehow, in a field of multicolored, pre-lit, aluminum trees, he manages to find one small, pathetic evergreen and decides that this tree looks like it needs a home. The tree is symbolic of the way Charlie feels: it's young, just beginning to grow, but seems to have the worst of luck - the least likely to be picked, ugly - and although it has potential, everyone ridicules it. At first, it could stand up straight, but when Charlie puts an ornament on it, it slumps over, and he thinks it's dead. Again, the tree is like Charlie Brown: he tried to dress himself up by doing all the things he thought he was supposed to do for Christmas, but it's killing him inside.

Thankfully, once again, Linus comes to the rescue. "I never thought it was such a bad little tree," he says. As he lifts the tree up and puts his blanket around the base, Linus goes on, “It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.” Then all the gang begins to work on decorating and fixing up the tree as a sign of love, and when they step back, the tree looks beautiful. Finally, to remind us that this is an allegory for how we express God’s love during Christmastime, the gang begins singing, “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.”

As Christmas approaches, who should we gather around? Who needs to be reminded that they are loved?

Last year, Amber and I bought some Christmas cards I really loved. The outside of the card had a picture of the Nativity, and it quoted from John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son..." On the inside, it said, "Christmas means never having to wonder how much God loves you."

Christmas means hope for the hopeless, comfort for those who mourn, joy for those who are filled with sorrow and depression, and love for those who feel unloved and unwanted. This season, lets make a point to share with others all that we have received from the Lord!


  1. Great! Thank you. :)
    Blessings to you this Christmas season.


    1. Same to you! I'm always happy if I can be a blessing! :)


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