I think I relate more and more each year to that famous line in the Charlie Brown Christmas television special.
You know the one.
Charlie Brown is having a difficult time getting into the Christmas spirit. Christmas commercialism is in full swing and those around him seem to be engrossed in it. His dog, Snoopy, enters a holiday lighting contest; his sister, Sally, wants a ton of cash for Christmas.
He accepts the role of director of the Christmas play at the urging of his friend/therapist, Lucy. When he can’t get the cast to cooperate he is sent on a mission to get a Christmas tree, a nice shiny aluminum one. Instead, he comes back with the scrawniest and only real tree on the lot. His friends laugh at Charlie Brown’s latest screw up.
It appears he doesn’t quite get Christmas. In anguish he cries that famous line: “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?”
Linus was the one who had the answer for Charlie Brown. Christmas isn’t about presents or the gross consumerism that overtakes us this time of year. Christmas isn’t about hustle and bustle and silly songs about winter. It’s about Jesus. It’s about the birth of a savior. It’s about Good News to all people.
It’s about God’s demonstration of love for you and for me. No ribbons and bows, no silver bells, no stockings hung by the chimney with care. A savior was born, which is wonderful news to all the world. That is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
God loves you and me so much that God came down in the person of Jesus Christ, was born into the ordinariness of our lives, showed us how to live, suffered and died for us, and rose again so that we could be reconciled with God and one another.
This is earth-shattering news. Don’t let the nostalgia of the holiday or this sweet idea of a new baby being born lull you to sleep. We have domesticated what is pretty wild news. Perhaps we need a Linus to remind us about why we celebrate Christmas, to help us to cut through the clutter, the nostalgia, and the cuteness of Christmas and point us to Jesus.
We need a Linus to remind us that our joy, our salvation, our very life was born into the world in and among barn animals. In the midst of a stressful trip with no suitable housing, Mary gives birth to our savior among animals and has no other place to lay Jesus but a feeding trough.
This is good news! Even in our most trying times, God is with us. No matter the state in which we arrive at Christmas — be it in joy, sadness, grief, hope, or unbelief - God is with us.
We need a Linus to remind us that the birth of a savior was a critique to the status quo and the powers of this world. Rome’s emperor, Caesar Augustus, was referred to as Lord, a Son of God, a Bringer of Peace and Savior of the World.
It is no coincidence that Jesus is also ascribed these titles. Jesus’ birth is a reminder that God is the one in power, not Caesar, not any other authority. Christ is Lord, not a king, not a president, not a prime minister. This is good news! In the midst of political partisanship in our country and horrific displays of power around the globe, we are reminded that God is ultimately in control.
We need a Linus to remind us that the Good News of this newborn savior was for all people. The text says that the shepherds lived in the fields keeping watch over their sheep. These guys were on the bottom of the social pyramid.
And God chose to deliver this message of salvation and peace, not to powerful leaders but to powerless shepherds. This is not Good News to a certain few powerful people, but all people all over the world. In a world that likes to shut people out of opportunity because of their social or economic status, their gender, their race, and their faith, the angels remind us that the birth of Jesus Christ is good news of great joy for all people.
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of the one who gave his life to be our life. We celebrate the birth of the one who broke the chains of sin and death. We celebrate the birth of the one who calls all of creation to the manger that all would find life.
This is Good News for all people. This is Good News for you. This is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. May you find grace and peace this holiday season.