It’s that time of the year again; time when we gather in front of our TVs to learn the true meaning of Christmas from two of the most wise and well-regarded sages of our time… Charlie Brown and his pal Linus. (I’m actually looking forward to sharing this little Christmas tradition with Vivian and Jackson as we sip on our “snowman milk”, their term for egg nog).
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty – except, of course, books of information. The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all.”
I believe that the Charlie Brown Christmas passes this test of imaginative works, for we as adults can actually enjoy the story even more than our children because we are capable of seeing the deeper metaphor running throughout the tale.
In the cartoon two stories are delicately and intentionally woven together. Against the backdrop of the Peanuts crew putting on a Christmas pageant to celebrate the birth of Christ, Charlie Brown goes out to buy a tree. Walking past all the beautiful trees, our unsung hero spies a tree off by itself, rejected by all. This poor tree is far from beautiful. But though this tree had nothing to offer him, Charlie Brown loved it anyway and he adopted it.
4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (Ephesians 1:4-5 NLT)
Unfortunately, for our poor protagonist, this choice did not come without cost to himself. Linus warned Charlie Brown before he bought the sad little tree that it “doesn’t seem to fit the modern spirit”. And he was right.
When Charlie returned with the tree he was chastised by the rest of the Peanuts crowd. Lucy scolded him, “You were supposed to get a good tree, can’t you even tell a good tree from a poor tree?”
And that really is the point. Charlie Brown saw worth in the worthless, and he redeemed this little tree.
“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” (Romans 5:6-8 The Message)
The story reaches its pinnacle moment when an exasperated Charlie Brown exclaims, “I guess I don’t know what Christmas is all about. Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!”
And trusty Linus answers his friend, saying, “Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” Linus moves to center stage and bravely called out “Lights, Please”. Then standing bold in the middle of the spot light he recited Luke 2:8-14.
“8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 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. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:8-14 KJV)
My friends, have you ever wondered at why we feel so for Charlie Brown’s little tree? It’s because we are that tree. Apart from Christ’s love and intervention, we are so damaged by sin and strife that our trunk is bowed and our branches bare. But in love for us, in spite of us, Christ came for us. And that is the Good News which brings peace and good will to all the earth.
So, may you be inspired. May you be inspired by the story of the tree which was redeemed. And may you be inspired by Linus too, who was bold to proclaim the true meaning of Christmas. As we encounter the people of this world who are lost in sin and darkness, may we too call out, “Lights, please.”