POSTED ON DECEMBER 21, 2011:
Thanks, Charlie Brown
Fight for what matters this Christmas
It had probably been ten to fifteen years since I'd seen the movie Charlie Brown Christmas. My son loves the part when all the characters begin dancing around the piano and he especially loves any scene with Snoopy. There we are sitting on the living room floor and I'm thinking to myself the whole time, "This movie is deep!"
If you've never seen the movie or it's been awhile like me, here's a little recap. Christmas is fast approaching and Charlie Brown confides in Linus that while he should be happy, the over-commercialization and complexity of the Christmas season has him depressed. On his way to join the Peanuts gang for the annual Christmas production, Charlie Brown realizes most people are more wrapped up in the gifts, decorations and festivities than the real meaning of Christmas. The pinnacle of the movie depicts a frustrated Charlie Brown, who in the midst of their Christmas play rehearsal asks the question, "What is Christmas really all about?"
Out walks Linus, the small boy who sucks his thumb and is always carrying a blue blanket, as he steps out into the middle of the stage into the spotlight and quotes Luke 2:8-14, the story of Christ's birth. He ends the passage with a very simple, "And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
Right after that moment in the movie came the uncomfortable personal realization that a child's Christmas movie was reading my mail. It was quite a humbling experience.
There is a certain aura or sentiment that is usually always associated with the Christmas season as a child. It's full of joy and a sense of eager anticipation. Along the way, the simplicity of a child's perception of Christmas gets tainted by the complexity of life as an adult. Eager anticipation is traded for financial strain, big crowds, uncomfortable family dynamics, and long-distance treks to visit family. Personally, I begin thinking about how long it will take to get all the Christmas stuff out of the attic and if I will survive putting up the Christmas lights on the steepest roof imaginable. Every year I'm surprised I make it without some horrific injury!
To be honest, I'm right there with you Charlie Brown!
I think there's two major reasons why so many people miss out on the beauty and simplicity of the Christmas season. The first is busyness. The office parties, shopping, decorations, travel, etc. leave no time to really stop and reflect on much of anything. As always, many of us continue to fill our lives with busyness and events, thinking that more always equals better.
The second reason many people miss out on the beauty and simplicity of the Christmas season is consumerism. It's the age-old misconception that the accumulation and focus on stuff will somehow satisfy some sort of deep-seeded need. Many would quickly agree that stuff doesn't translate into joy or contentment and yet we continue to consume and consume. It's a vicious cycle and it's hard to overcome.
This isn't a plea to throw out the Christmas decorations or make some sort of wild, psycho declaration that your boycotting the whole Christmas culture to recapture a more true sense of the meaning of Christmas. I will, however, make a plea for you to do something that has helped me greatly: Will you fight for these few things this Christmas season?
1. Create Memories.
Sounds simply, right? Maybe it is for you but for me it takes a great deal of intentionality. Most the time we are quick to think about giving people presents when what they most desire is our presence. Maybe it's a Christmas light display, a trip to a friend's house for dinner, a Christmas service, or a shopping trip with friends or family. Don't let the season go by without stopping to spend time with the people that really matter to you. Create those memories and traditions that keep it simple and remind you what really matters.
2. Serve Someone Else.
For me, this is the big difference maker. This is the one thing every single year that helps me actually embrace what it's all about. It can be as simple as helping purchase gifts for a family in need, or inviting someone to your house who may spend Christmas alone, or taking a foster child into your home on Christmas day so they don't spend it in a children's shelter. The needs are everywhere if you're looking. It's a reminder that I've been given the greatest gift imaginable, Jesus Christ, and my response should be a heart of giving and thanksgiving. Serving others give me some much needed perspective during Christmas. Trust me, if you approach this Christmas season with a giving heart you would be disappointed in the end.
3. Give Quality Time.
Again, it doesn't seem that difficult, right? How many times do we just go through the motions or try to get through a family Christmas instead of spending quality time with the people we love. That means stopping to listen, being present in the conversation, and not looking for the quickest exit or meaningless task to occupy your time. If you're going to be with the people you love then actually BE with the people you love.
Last, but certainly not least, stop to worship. If Christmas for you is really about a person, a person who entered into history to bring salvation to you and me, we must stop to worship. Much like the wisemen who traveled from foreign lands to bring extravagant gifts to the feet of Jesus, we must stop to worship and be in awe of the story. It's an incredible story of love and redemption that allows us to have HOPE, JOY, and PEACE not only during Christmas, but each and every day of our lives.
Thanks for the reminder Charlie Brown!
With a big thank you to Artist/Writer Charles M. Schultz.
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