Friday, January 9, 2009

Can "A Charlie Brown Christmas" change your life?

I have always loved everything about Christmas and enjoy the entire season from start to finish. An important part of the season is the Christmas movies and specials, the most valuable being “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

However, this year, upon returning home from Thanksgiving break, I couldn’t muster the energy to put up my Christmas tree. This was not like me. Putting up the tree should be a ritual to celebrate and treasure, complete with holiday music, mulled cider, and frolicking cats. This year, the ritual seemed overwhelming. All I could think was, “This is going to take a lot of time to put up, plus I will have the unpleasant task of putting it away and facing the empty void the tree leaves behind in January. Is this really worth it?” Something was wrong.

The next day I forced myself to put up my tree and I tried to be cheery about it. It didn’t work. My cat usually finds the putting-up-of-the-tree a wonderful occasion because he gets to chew on the fake branches and chase the broken parts around the room. However, even he was not interested this year. I reflected, “Something is wrong with me. It is Christmas, but I’m not happy.” As the thought flew across my brain I made the connection, “Isn’t that how ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ starts?” I resolved to watch the special as soon as I finished with my tree. Perhaps the solution Charlie finds would work for me, too.

I popped the DVD in and settled in to watch with an intentionality I’ve never summoned before. Sure enough, Charlie feels there is something wrong with him; Christmas is coming, but he’s not happy. He doesn’t feel the way he is supposed to feel. Me too Charlie! As the story rolls on, Lucy attempts to cure him by naming him the director of the Christmas play. However, the other kids don’t want to listen to Charlie. Don’t I know about that. Finally, Lucy sends Charlie on a quest for a Christmas tree and he brings back a sad little tree, drawing mockery from the other kids. Charlie laments, “Everything I do turns into a disaster.” I know Charlie, I know. And I’m starting to worry a little because it is freaky how much I am identifying with Charlie Brown. Linus then offers his soliloquy taken from the gospel, which I had always thought of as being the point of the special. But as I watched this time, I noticed, the story doesn’t end there. Inspired, Charlie takes his sad tree home and places a single ornament on it, which forces it to keel over. “Everything I touch gets ruined!” he cries, and he walks off defeated. But the story doesn’t end there either. Linus brings the gang to Charlie’s house, and through the magic of hand waving, they lavishly decorate Charlie’s tree until it is beautiful. The tree is the point of the story.

Then I remembered a factoid I had recently come across about Christmas trees. Christians put up evergreen trees as a symbol of the eternal life we have in Jesus. Oh. I never knew that, or if I did, I had forgotten. I remember learning that Martin Luther was the first to put up a Christmas tree, but that had always struck me as an oddly pagan thing to do. Bringing a tree into your house and dolling it up? What? But, framing it as a metaphor, well I could definitely envision Luther being into eternal life.

As a gazed at my tree I was overcome remembering that gift I have been given. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ, but it is so easy to forget why He came. He came to give us eternal life.

From that point on, each time I looked at my tree, I remembered what this season, and my life, is about. As unhappy as I may be with my current situation, I have such an incredible gift to look forward to. I am so thankful to God for the future He has promised me. And I have some added respect for Luther.

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