The Pastor’s Piece – December 10, 2023

The Pastor’s Piece


December 10, 2023

An elderly widow decided it was too much trouble to get all of her kids and grandkids’ Christmas presents, so she decided to send them a check with a card. A few days after she mailed all the cards, she discovered she forgot to include the checks in the cards. Imagine all those kids opening a card from grandma with a note inside that says, “Buy your own presents.”

I have a friend who vacations in Jamaica at Christmas time. One year he told the Jamaicans it was 20 below back in Wisconsin. Their reply: “Below what?”

As with most, my Christmas memories are many and wonderful. As a child, I spent Christmas Eve with my cousins and aunts and uncles. Christmas Day was spent with my parents and siblings and later dinner at Grandma’s house. Eventually, we had our own Christmases with our children. Although I cannot put them in chronological order, I’m pretty sure I can remember every one of them and the excitement and joy they brought with each phase of life. As a little child, it was the joy of getting. Later, the joy of giving. Later still, the joy of sharing with my new bride. And then the joys of Christmas as they related to our own children, and now our children’s children. 

Two of my favorite Christmases were when my wife and I were first married and living in Arizona. We decorated a palm tree in the front yard and sat outside in lawn chairs and watched the moon come up over the desert landscape – just the two of us. The next year, we bought a new car a couple days before Christmas and drove 31 hours and got home just in time for Christmas and -24 degree temps. I remember driving all night through Arizona and New Mexico and then watching the sun come up over the eastern horizon as we raced across the northern plains of Texas before turning north toward home. 

And then there were all the Christmases when our children were little and the excitement leading up to the day. And on Christmas Day the relaxing atmosphere in the house knowing nothing could interrupt the peace and joy behind the true meaning of Christmas. It all comes together as God’s gift to us – first in His gift of salvation and second, in the gift of joy and peace as we celebrate each year.

Recently, I was reading an article that said all the traditional Christmas movies have the real meaning of Christmas veiled in the story lines, except for A Charlie Brown Christmas, the animated 1965 special where they come right out and say what Christmas is. 

It’s odd that something seemingly as frivolous as a cartoon can plumb the depths of Christmas. In the special, Charlie Brown is frustrated because his friends are putting on a Christmas pageant that perpetuates the modern consumerism that has absorbed the holiday. When he finally shouts for someone to give him the true meaning of Christmas, Linus takes the stage. In his quiet, soft voice, Linus quotes the story of Jesus’s birth from Luke 2:8-14:  “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock 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 Saviour, 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 walks over to his beleaguered friend and says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” Surprisingly, that special is still aired on network television, a fleetingly rare expression in the mainstream media of Christ in Christmas.

Why bring up a child’s cartoon? Because it is, dare I say, a profound piece of art—charmingly drawn, wonderfully written, and subtly powerful. There’s something artistically subtle in that scene. 

It has been noted that at the moment Linus utters the words “fear not” from Luke 2, he drops his security blanket. This is a noteworthy detail because Linus is never without his trusty blue blanket, clinging to it to feel secure and safe. And yet as he recounts the story of Jesus’ birth and the courage it inspires, he lets go of his security blanket, needing nothing more than the Christmas story to give him the hope of security.

(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin).