Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year
Snowflakes in the air
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share
Sleigh bells in the air
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there
Christmas time is here
We’ll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year…
– Vince Guaraldi – Lee Mendelson
This song has been a part of my Christmas my whole life – literally. I was born in 1965 and that was the same year that A Charlie Brown Christmas premiered on CBS-TV. It is hard to imagine a Christmas in the United States without watching this beloved special. 50 million people are estimated to have watched it in 1965 and it has retained such ratings through the 47 years since.
At the heart of A Charlie Brown Christmas is, ironically enough, depression. Young Charlie Brown finds himself in a deep funk at Christmas time. Even though it is a white Christmas, even though there are presents, decorations, and all that we’re taught goes into making Christmas Christmas, Charlie Brown is not happy. He feels he should be, but can’t quite figure out why he is not.
Even though Charlie Brown is 7 or 8 years old, he’s an “every man.” He embodies the feelings of so many at this time of year. It is sad that so many people are depressed at what is supposed to be a joyous time of year. It isn’t hard to imagine why, though, is it? The stress and anxiety caused by difficult economic times, or the sadness of facing a Christmas for the first time without a loved one, certainly make Christmas a less-than-joyful time of year.
If you turn on the TV, you will be bombarded with the messages that all it takes to make Christmas Christmas will be “stuff.” A new car, new clothes, a bigger and better TV, cologne, perfume, a computer tablet, or simply money, money, money will put you in the proper Christmas mood.
This commercialism is bemoaned of in A Charlie Brown Christmas and, before that, Miracle on 34th Street, and even A Christmas Carol.
Charlie Brown’s beagle, Snoopy, is getting into the commercial mood of Christmas. Then there is Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally. Even his five- or six-year-old sister has been indoctrinated into the commercialism of Christmas. Even though she can’t write to Santa Claus herself, she does dictate the letter to her older brother and closes with a plan to make things easy on Santa, suggesting to him that he simply bring “$10’s and $20’s” as her Christmas presents!
I don’t have a problem with commerce. Bartering, buying and selling have been around for nearly as long as there have been people. And the topic of money is an important topic in the Bible, as it is mentioned over 2000 times (according to the website http://www.biblemoneymatters.com/bible-verses-about-money-what-does-the-bible-have-to-say-about-our-financial-lives/ accessed December, 2012).
Like most things, the problem lies in the mire of over-indulging in commercialism. Sally has made Christmas all about “getting all you can get while the getting is good” (actually a quote from the sequel to A Charlie Brown Christmas called It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown). Snoopy feels Christmas is another opportunity to win big prizes (by decorating).
Ironically enough, A Charlie Brown Christmas, was originally aired with several product placements by its original sponsor – Coca Cola – which made it difficult to edit for future airings (resulting in several scenes cut out entirely).
Charlie Brown seeks answers from Lucy – the neighborhood psychologist. Interestingly enough, Lucy diagnoses Charlie Brown’s problem as having to do with fear. She tries to find out what Charlie Brown is afraid of.
It seems to me that some people have trouble with Christmas because they are afraid – afraid of being alone, afraid of unrequited love, afraid of missing out of the joy they feel should be a part of the season. These are all understandable fears, to me at least. I feel that way because they are very real fears.
Lucy’s prescription for Charlie Brown is “involvement” – by which she means he should direct the Christmas Play. With this suggestion, Charlie Brown’s heart begins to melt and a genuine smile appears on his face for the first time.
Still, Charlie Brown hasn’t quite figured out what is missing. Even though it is clear that the Christmas play is the story of the Nativity of Jesus Christ (there are shepherds, animals, an innkeeper and his wife, who has naturally curly hair), something is missing. The kids seem to know their parts and the parts that go with the story, but all they are interested in is dancing (having a good time).
Charlie Brown tries to capture the proper mood to get the play going – by providing a Christmas tree. But upon presenting a real Christmas tree, his fear comes crashing in on him when all the kids ridicule him and even his own dog rejects his contribution to the play.
In a final, desperate, act of supplication Charlie Brown cries out “Isn’t there anyone that can tell me what Christmas is all about?”
Linus chimes in with the true meaning of Christmas. He recites – from memory – the immortal words of the Gospel:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,” Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.”
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
Yes, Christmas includes parties, presents, and poems set to music. It includes family and friends getting together, special movies and TV shows, lights and decorations.
But at its heart, Christmas is about alleviating fear. The fear of being alone, the fear of being rejected, the fear of being forever in despair.
Because those fears where exactly where the human race was, and was forever heading, unless God did something about it. And so God promised He would. And so God did as He promised.
Jesus Christ was born in the little town of Bethlehem. He grew up to live a perfect life. Then He took all the sins of the world on Himself and died on the cross. Three days later Jesus rose victorious from the dead – thus assuring all those who believe in Him would also rise from the dead one day. And then Jesus ascended into heaven but not before promising that He would return to take all those who have faith in Him to heaven with Him.
That’s what Christmas – that’s what Christ – is all about.