The Pastor’s Piece – December 15, 2019
Fellowship of Christian Farmers
By Kevin Cernek
December 15, 2019
December 15, 2019
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.”
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.
Critics of Christianity have likened belief in God to belief in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. They say it’s nothing but a charming story for those with childlike belief. When we get older, so the critic says, we should abandon our childish belief in God just as we abandoned our childish belief in Santa Claus. It may have inspired us for a time, but that time is over.
But that is a shallow assessment. The gospel narrative inspires at a level far deeper. Can a mere children’s myth be as enduring as the Gospel, not only over the centuries but also in the decades of our own lives from childhood to the grave? Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, put it well when he exposed the shallow comparison of belief in God and belief in children’s stories:
“One of the things that most needs saying to the cultured despisers of religion today is that the classical language of faith is overflowing with resources for imagining and understanding human experience at depth. As I’ve said on other occasions, when people compare Christian belief to belief in the tooth fairy or Santa Claus, I want to ask, where are the Divine Comedies or Matthew Passions or Four Quartets inspired by the tooth fairy? Childish stories may lead to childish fleeting emotions or temporary wonder, and they may even inspire art on soda cans. But they simply don’t have the power to inspire lasting works of art that perpetuate our emotion and wonder. The paintings of the great masters, music like Handel’s Messiah, and even subtle depictions in children’s cartoons come from a message much deeper than the secularized trappings of the modern holiday season. They come from the history of Jesus’s birth and the theology of what his birth means.” (End Quote).
Merry Christmas Everyone!