Christmas Eve 2021 Year A
And that is the true meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown. I always want to say that after hearing the first twenty verses of Luke 2.
Like many families, we have a tradition of watching certain movies together at Christmas. One of them is Elf, another is Love Actually, for some it is Die Hard; but for me, the best Christmas special is A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Didn’t you feel safe and loved while listening to the Gospel reading tonight, the famous Christmas passage about the angelic announcement of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds who were watching their flocks in a nearby field? The same text that Linus reads at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Last year I got to write the Christmas Eve Sermon. I wanted to focus on the Shepherds, but I just couldn’t get past the fact that the birth of Jesus was so glossed over. Luke writes that the family arrived in Bethlehem and then suddenly there is a baby and shepherds show up to praise him. Since I got in my two cents last year about how giving birth is not that simple, this year I want to focus on shepherds. You know, shepherds like Charles Schulz.
Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, was a devout Christian, and when he was asked in 1965 to create a Christmas special for CBS featuring the Peanuts characters, Schulz agreed… with one caveat: he would only do it if they would let him include the story of the birth of Jesus.
CBS executives were hesitant about including this, but because Peanuts was so popular, they conceded and agreed to allow Schulz to include it in the show. However, both the producer and the director tried hard to dissuade him from including it, first because they thought it would be boring to have a scripture reading in a television program, and secondly, because even then it was considered controversial. Schulz refused to budge. He reportedly said at one point, “We must tell this story! If we don’t do it, who will?”
Schulz won out, and as a result, for the past 50 years, millions of families and especially their children have watched A Charlie Brown Christmas and heard the story of Jesus which is “what Christmas is all about.”
Tonight, is a Holy night. Tonight, we sit here in the peace and knowledge that we can choose to have a savior from God. Born to a working-class family, and like us today, to a world full of uncertainty and injustice, this innocent little baby can lead us out of bondage and into freedom. And all we must do is believe he can. Tonight, the one who will lead us into God’s Kingdom is a child. Why does it feel so intuitively right to be led by a child, a small and vulnerable baby on this night of all nights?
Christmas brings out the goodness and fearlessness in us. Pondering humanity at its finest leads me to the story of the shepherds of the Christmas Truce of 1914.
Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops fighting in World War I sang Christmas Carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing of Oh Tannenbaum and Stille Nacht.
At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum pudding and sang carols and songs. Some Germans lit Christmas trees around their trenches, and there was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.
We can act in love without being led by God. But we cannot be led by Christ without fearlessly loving ourselves and the world. Love, in all its forms, is at the heart of this Holy night; and Love leads those who have chosen to be Christ in the world.
Fred Rogers is another Shepard who, though he never spoke of his faith on TV, lived a life inspired by the baby we celebrate tonight. Here are some of the things he wrote during his life:
“I believe that appreciation is a holy thing—that when we look for what’s best in a person we happen to be with right now, we’re doing what God does all the time. So, in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something sacred.”
“I believe that at the center of the universe there dwells a loving spirit who longs for all that’s best in all of creation, a spirit who knows the great potential of each planet as well as each person, and little by little will love us into being more than we ever dreamed possible. That loving spirit would rather die than give up on any one of us.
“The Kingdom of God is for the broken-hearted. Join the club.”
Fred Rogers also said, “Love is like infinity: You can’t have more or less infinity, and you can’t compare two things to see if they’re “equally infinite.” Infinity just is, and that’s the way I think love is, too.”
“It’s a mistake to think that we have to be lovely to be loved by human beings or by God.”
Finally, he said, “There is only one thing evil cannot stand, and that is forgiveness.”
So tonight, we can be in love with life. We can be at our human best. Knowing a Child is born to the world who will save the world makes forgiving seem simpler somehow. Love seems less complicated. Fear seems like a waste of time.
Have you ever noticed that when Linus tells the Christmas story: He drops his blanket – his security blanket?
While sharing the message of “what Christmas is all about,” Linus drops his blanket at the exact moment he says the words, “fear not!”
If you have not watched it this season, watch it this weekend.
The message it communicates is that because Jesus has come into the world to be our Savior, we can let go of the things we have been clinging to and looking for security in, and we can find true security in Him.
If you look again, that’s not the only subtle message Charles Schulz put into the scene. Notice how when Linus starts speaking about Jesus, that message takes center stage, and gets put in the spotlight.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, Everlasting father, Prince of Peace.
This is the central message for us for tonight. May it be true for us this Christmas: that we put Jesus at center stage, and give Him the spotlight, and as we do so, may we find true peace and security in Him.