I have identified with Charlie Brown in “The Charlie Brown Christmas” since I was a very little girl. The first time I can remember crying at the reading of Scripture was when Linus gets up on that stage and reads from Luke’s gospel. It still slays me every year……
I think the reason I feel such a kinship to Charlie Brown is that both he and I are acutely aware that this life is broken; that things are not the way they are supposed to be. Christmas has become all about acquiring stuff. Who can decorate with the most festive lights? Who bakes the tastiest cookies? Which family looks the cutest and happiest on those photo Christmas cards? Who hosts the most happening holiday party? Somehow it has turned into a race- a competition. Each year some new gimmick pushes us to greater heights of materialism; and all you hear about is people who are stressed and pressured to keep up with the Joneses.
Now we have the “Elf on the Shelf”…….which started out as a cute little story with a trick to encourage children to behave so Santa will get good reports about them. Within a couple of years, this tradition too has gotten way out of control. My co-teacher reported to me this week that the Elves in her son’s friend’s homes are now leaving gifts. Her son wanted to know why their Elf was not leaving gifts. One friend’s Elf even left Nutcracker tickets!! “What should I say to my kids when they ask me this??”, wailed my co-teacher. My reply was easy: “Tell them their Elf wants them to be good and kind and not grow up to be spoiled brats like their friends will grow up to be!!”
Holy Elsa and Anna dolls!!!…..What would Charlie Brown have to say about children getting Nutcracker tickets from the Elf? Before it is even Christmas!!
I have struggled with the holidays since I was a kid. Everyone is supposed to be super happy and excited at this time of year; God forbid we are sad, or have problems. My family had a lot of problems when I was a kid but nobody was supposed to know about them. We decorated and wrapped and made everything look shiny and new on the outside while inside we were lost and lonely and sad and scared. I loved watching Charlie Brown as his righteous indignation boils over and he finally just can’t take it anymore…..”Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is really about??!!!!!!!”, he screams, stamping his foot and clenching his fist. Most days, I wanted to scream the same thing.
Today, all these years later, God has mercifully healed me from many of the wounds of the past; but there are new things to struggle with. There are always new hurts and challenges in this broken world. My grief over being childless- something that usually is bearable during the rest of the year- always rears its ugly head during the holidays. Watching my Mother’s Alzheimer’s continue its evil, horrible, twisted progression is tearing me apart this Christmas season. I try to visit her and console her in the nursing home as she struggles with anxiety, confusion, grief and fear. I am not effective at consolation. She drifts further and further away from me. She cannot be reached. It is not supposed to be like this. It was never supposed to be like this.
I sit in front of my beautiful Christmas tree thinking….it is not supposed to be like this. And just when I think I am not going to make it through another holiday season, I hear the tiny sweet voice of Linus in my head…..
“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……………..
-That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown”…………
The words of Linus, which are the very words of God, comfort me. That is what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown. That is what Christmas is all about Christine. It is about the Light of God, shining in the darkness. Shining in the midst of commercialism. Shining in the midst of family brokenness. Shining in the midst of loneliness and sickness and fear and hurt and trauma. God became a person and dwelt among us. To rescue us. To save us. To lead us home. It isn’t supposed to be like this- that’s just the thing. Charlie Brown knew it. I know it. Many other sensitive, wounded people like us know it too. But just wait……This world is not our home. A Light shines in the darkness; and if we can just keep hoping and believing in that Light we can become a part of it too.
Merry Christmas Charlie Brown……