I pray that you may find peace and hope this Christmas season especially in the midst of the uncertainty of COVID-19. I hate to even mention it and I don’t want to dwell on it but the reality is that COVID-19 is a part of our lives right now. COVID-19 is a part of our Christmas this year. For some there is fear, for many of us it is the uncertainty that troubles us most, for others it is a nuisance and inconvenience. For many of us Christmas will look a bit different this year. Maybe we won’t gather with as many family members as usual, maybe we won’t attend worship on Christmas Eve, whatever it is for you it will probably be different this year. Some things will be the same and some things will be different and maybe some of the old traditions will be seen in a new light. You might even start a new tradition this year. Maybe the same old story that you hear each year will have a new meaning. I experienced this a few years ago.
My favorite Christmas program to watch each year is “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. When it first came out in 1965, I was four years old I am not sure if I watched it that year but I know that I watched it the next few years. I used to check the television schedule to see which of the three television stations would carry it on our black and white television set so I could make sure that I could watch it. Imagine my amazement (sometime in the 70’s) when I first saw it in color. The first time that the familiar story became new. As I grew older it was hit or miss if I would watch this show around Christmas. Later I would make a point of watching it with my children. A number of years ago my wife bought me my own copy of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” so now it is a Christmas tradition for me to watch this show every year.
Every time that I watch this show, I get emotional when Linus gets up to recite the Christmas story from Luke - the same Christmas story that we hear each year from Luke chapter 2. And then Linus would end with “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown”. A few years ago, I was made aware of a new twist with my beloved Charlie Brown Christmas.
You know how Linus always carried his blanket with him? He would never put it down or let it go – even when Lucy tried to take it away from him. It was his security blanket it gave him comfort. Well, when he was at center stage reciting Luke 2 at the moment when he said “Fear not” he drops his blanket and doesn’t pick it up again until after he has finished telling us about the Savior who is Christ the Lord. I would guess that Charles Schultz was very intentional when he first wrote this scene. When Linus quotes the word of God from an angel “Fear Not” he doesn’t need his security blanket. His security is in the message that he is sharing about the coming savior.
I have been watching this show for over 50 years and I had never noticed this before until it was pointed out to me. Now when I watch it there is more anticipation. And in the future when I watch the show there will be added meaning at this moment.
In spite of all that we are experiencing with regards to COVID-19. In spite of all that we hear in the news of violence and killings around the world. In spite of all that is going on around us that we might dread. In this Christmas story we have the angel come to us and say “fear not” - “Do not be afraid” - “for see - I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” That is the message that we long to hear - that is the message that we come to hear as we gather together on Christmas Eve.
For me this new way of hearing this story has added new meaning - there is something new in this old story. So now there is something new in the “Charlie Brown Christmas” but there is also something old that sticks with us from this movie. The whole point of the show - the reason that Charlie Brown is so gloomy is the commercialism of Christmas. Even fifty years ago this was a problem - and it seems that not much has changed today - except that maybe the commercialism has gotten worse and the meaning of Christmas is shifting away from Christ. Maybe that is why we gather together on Christmas Eve - to get a break from the commercialism for an hour or so and have an opportunity to hear the story that gives us the real meaning of Christmas. The story that reminds us that no matter what we are going through God is with us. The story that tells us to “fear not” because through this child we receive forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. The story that makes us new every time we hear it. This is the gift that we all receive as we hear this story over and over again.
The story of the gift of the Christ Child – where we receive freedom from sin and certainty of eternal life.