I know it's not the manly thing to do, but I'll write it out in black and white (or green and dark green) -- I tend to tear up at certain times. One of those times is every time I watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yeah, a cartoon. But there's something about the simplicity of it all. I'm reasonably sure I watched this show when it first aired back in 1965. I would have been four years old at the time. So maybe there's a sense of nostalgia to it as well.
But it's not the kids tasting snowflakes that does it to me. It's not Lucy trying to label Charlie Brown's fear that puts the tear in my eye. The pathetic three-branch Christmas tree doesn't affect me either. It isn't even the kids dancing at Christmas play practice -- although I particularly enjoy Shermy dancing "The Sleepwalk" and Violet doing some bizarre kind of shadow boxing/twist movement.
But when Charlie Brown is ridiculed for bringing that all-but-bare twig back to practice, he turns to Linus and says, "I guess you're right, Linus. I shouldn't have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don't know what Christmas is all about."
"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"
Linus steps up and answers happily, "Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about."
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks 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 good 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, good will toward men'."
Linus then turns, walks back to Charlie Brown and plainly says,
"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
And that's all it takes. Every time he says it, I get all choked up.
A little of my reaction could be because of the little crack in Linus' voice and the fact that it was a real child reading the lines. But I think it's the pure simple message that even a child can see. Christmas isn't about the materialistic orgy of buying and wrapping and baking and eating. Lost in the mountain of cotton-ball snow, pine needles, gift receipts, glittery cards, flashing lights and red-nosed reindeer is the hope of all humanity cloaked in the skin of a newborn babe.
Charles Schultz made anti-commercialism the theme of A Charlie Brown Christmas. That was 1965. Let's just consider how much more the world has drifted away from the true message of Christmas in those forty years. Even the word "Christmas" is frowned upon by an increasingly secular society. That's enough to make a person cry. The good tidings of great joy really are for all people, yet so few come to the stable to worship and adore Him.
Still the simple message from the mouth of little Linus Van Pelt remains. Christmas is all about God taking on humanity to live the perfect life which we can not live, then offering His righteousness to us. And the fact that this basic truth is a visible pearl within the oyster of the secular holiday season brings a tear of awe and gratitude to my eye.
Glory to God in the highest!