Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.
In the fall of 2004, Roberts Wesleyan College Student Productions performed “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” The role of Charlie Brown was played by a young sophomore named Ethan Thomas. That would be me. At the twilight of my happy-but-troubled years before the Everlasting began his overt pruning process I fused myself into the role of Charlie Brown. It seemed a custom fit, and among my friends and acquaintances I became Charlie Brown. To this day there are still people who call me that. Charlie Brown became, to an extent, a part of my identity. Of course, seven years ago is a long time in the perspecive of a 27 year old, but the fond memories of the nostalgic (mostly) good ol’ days still rise whenever I see or hear anything remotely related to Charlie Brown, which brings us to the point:
Today I stumbled across this article by Mark W. Benjamin in which he summarizes the history of the famous Charlie Brown Christmas special. I was enraptured by it. It turns out that the powers that be were horrified, convinced that the special would be a flop. The creative team, including Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, had defied industry norms left, right, and center. There was jazz music (in a Christmas special!), no laugh track (unheard of!) and the characters were voiced by children with no professional experience, some of which couldn’t even read the scripts. The message railed against the commercialism of the Christmas season, which probably wasn’t warmly welcomed by the corporate sponsors. And then there was Linus quoting from the book of Luke to explain what Christmas is all about to Charlie Brown. Schulz was apparently told, “You can’t have the Bible on television” and replied with, “If we don’t do it, who will?”
It seems that CBS executives braced for the worst, expecting outrage and rejection, only to be met with an outpouring of adulation and praise. Letters poured in expressing support and thanks for Linus’ scripture quoting. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” won Emmy and Peabody awards. CBS ordered four more Peanuts specials.
As a former Charlie Brown, and as a Christian, I loved reading this article. It woke something inside of me, something that I knew but had forgotten. Christmas, for Christians, is about something far more than trees and presents and lights and Christmas movies and holiday orchestras and candlelight services. It’s even more than hymns and Mary-did-you-knows and cute, well-written poems about Jesus’ life. It’s so much more than getting warm fuzzy feelings thinking about love, happiness, and a baby Jesus slightly aglow in a manger scene. It’s about remembering the arrival of the King of the Kingdom of Heaven, and pondering on what that means for us and our lives. It’s about the gospel.
And not “about the gospel” in the way that invites conflict and hostility with those to whom Christmas means something different, but about the gospel in so far as we’re reminded, at the close of the year, that life’s still about loving and living well. About extending grace and mercy in the name of the Living God. In a season where the year formally ends and a new one begins, there exists a months-long celebration that, for me as a Christian, can serve as a shot in the arm after a long and weary year. A shot in the arm bringing the energy and motivation to live and love well in my heart and my life – in a way that positively impacts my community and the world – to the glory and praise of God.
I mean, after all…
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
Or perhaps more accurately, it’s what Christmas can be about… at least for this Charlie Brown.