It's been years since I last watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. Poor Charlie Brown - depressed, missing the meaning of the season.
Truth is, I see a lot of myself in Charlie.
It is incredibly difficult to find signs of the true meaning of Christmas in the bustling and busyness of the four weeks or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the cartoon, each character displays a different aspect of what we consider holiday spirit.
Snoopy slaps as many lights and gee-gaws on his doghouse as possible, hoping to win a prize for best decorations. Rerun is obsessed with the girl who sits behind him in class, striving in vain to get her address and name (which she changes every day) in order to send a card. Lucy is focused on her list for Santa.
The odd thing is that Linus up and gives the true meaning of the season near the beginning:
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those with whom he is pleased!”
Luke 2:8 - 14
The cartoon is truly an odd conglomeration of Scripture and secular traditions. There is more of the Bible quoted -and accurately quoted, without any "creative" editing - than in any Christmas special I've seen in the last ten years. If the cartoon weren't considered a "classic", they would edit it out. In fact, the network made much during the advertising that the show would be run "in its entirety". As I recall from previous years, the content edited out to make room for more ads was generally Linus quoting the Luke passage.
Yet ACBC ends up the same place most secular holiday tales end: Christmas is about love.
Well yes, Christmas is about love, but not our love for ourselves or our neighbors. It's about the unconditional, unearned, freely given love of God for His errant creation. It's about the sacrifice of Someone for those who do not deserve it. It's the unfathomable - God not only taking on human form, but arriving as humans do, fragile, hungry, wailing.
Good news indeed.