|Rembrandt, "The Visitation, (DIA)|
Charlie Brown always struggles with holidays. This is especially true of Christmas. One Christmas, since he was feeling rather blue, he went to Lucy’s psychiatrist booth for advice. Lucy decided to work through a list of phobias, to see if he was afraid of something. When she came to pantophobia, which she defined as the “fear of everything,” Charlie Brown shouted out: “That’s it.” Yes, Charlie Brown is afraid of everything. After Lucy got up from the ground, she came up with an idea—Charlie Brown needed a job. She decided he should direct the Christmas play. As you may remember, this didn’t go well. When he got to the auditorium, he gathered the cast and crew, handed out parts, and gave directions. Unfortunately, no one paid attention to him, because they were more interested in dancing than practicing. Since that wasn’t going well, Lucy decided to send Charlie Brown off to find a Christmas tree. When they got to the lot, Charlie Brown picked out a rather small and forlorn tree, even though Linus advised against the choice. When they returned to the auditorium with the tree, everyone broke out in laughter. This left Charlie Brown feeling even worse. Finally, in desperation, he cried out: “Can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?”
I imagine that many people are asking this very question. The season can be jolly for some and sad for others. There are many Charlie Browns in our midst, for whom there is no “merry” in Christmas. So, what is Christmas all about?
There was someone there who had an answer. It was his best friend Linus, who stepped to the center of the stage. Then, with the spotlight shining on him, Linus recited Luke’s version of the Christmas story. He started with the shepherds, who were keeping watch over their sheep. Charles Schultz used the King James Version of the story, so when the angel spoke to the shepherds, these are the words that are heard: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Yes, “fear not,” because the angel brings wonderful news to humanity.
I recently posted a YouTube video of this scene on Facebook, and someone pointed out something interesting. If you know anything about Linus, you know he always carries a blanket. This blanket has many uses, but mostly it’s a source of security. So, when Linus spoke the words “Fear not,” he dropped his blanket. Yes, he picked it up at the end of the presentation, but for a moment he let go of his fear and embraced the “good tidings of great joy” about a child born in Bethlehem who would be a sign of God’s glory and blessing to all people.
Oh, and with a little help from Snoopy’s award-winning Christmas light display and Linus’ ever-present blanket, that little tree turned into a rather magnificent display of Christmas glory. Take what you will from this story, but I see in it a reminder that in the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth, God’s glory and presence are revealed to humanity. That is what Christmas is all about.
In the Gospel of John, we’re told that the Word of God became flesh and lived among us, making known the true nature of God to the world. Yes, there was the glorious display in the heavens, but only a few shepherds got to see it. The true glory of God, however, was revealed there in that manger. When the shepherds saw it, they were amazed, and they went away “glorifying and praising God, for all they had heard and seen.”
As we ponder the question—What is Christmas all about? — may we hear in the songs and in the scriptures, and in our gathering at the Table, a declaration of peace and good will to all. Having heard these good tidings of great joy, may we carry that message out into the world, for as Tiny Tim is known to declare in another beloved Christmas story: “God bless us, one and all.”
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall, Pastor
Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
December 24, 2017