Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Best Christmas Movie?


Dear Friends,

There was a time in my adult life when layers of Christmas traditions had obscured the meaning. As a young boy, I knew it was about the miraculous birth of Jesus, but it was also about the miraculous coming of Santa Claus. Christmas was a time of mystery and wonder until someone punctured my belief about Santa with the truth and all the mystery and wonder leaked out. As I grew into adulthood, my Christmas became a sloppy mixture of sentimentality and materialism. It was a time of year when things in the world became nice again. Nice decorations, nice songs, nice movies, nice dinners, nice gifts and the miracle of Jesus’ birth was overshadowed with the miracle of people actually being nice to one another. 

We long for the hope, peace, joy and love that we often find in our sentimentalization of Christmas. We express our love for each other by giving gifts and the more the merrier. And sadly for too many of us, that’s the true meaning of Christmas. But those of us who are believers know that Christmas is more than nice, warm thoughts and what we got at Walmart on Black Friday. 

Christmas is about a Creator entering into His Creation to redeem us and bring us true hope, peace, joy and love. Christmas is about the incarnation, literally meaning “God in the flesh.” And when we return to the spiritual riches of Christmas, the sentimentality and materialism of the season is now eclipsed with the majesty and mystery of the incarnation. Our childlike wonder has returned. Thank You God!

Advent is the season of expectation. The word Advent is from a Latin word meaning “coming” and we celebrate the first time Jesus came to earth in that Bethlehem manger as we look with full expectation to His second coming. ‘Tis the season to decorate, shop, cook, bake, give, receive and spend time with family and friends. That’s what we love about Christmas, but none of those wonderful holiday traditions has anything to do with Christ. That’s why we need Advent to remind us to take a timeout from the holiday busyness and spend time with Jesus.

I love the Christmas movies. I laugh at the immature and irreverent humor in "National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation" and cry at the same sappy places you do while watching "Miracle on 34th Street" and "It’s a Wonderful Life." But of course those classic Christmas movies are about an eccentric family, the “real” Santa Claus and guardian angels. Nothing about Jesus.

That’s why my favorite Christmas movie is a animated movie (cartoon) that was introduced to the world on December 9, 1965. Its overt religious theme was out of place on TV then, and no major studio or television network would even think about producing this today. The miracle is that, not only was it made, but that networks must still show this very politically-incorrect animated movie every Christmas because it’s so immensely popular! I’m talking about "Charlie Brown’s Christmas." Here’s an excerpt:



Charlie Brown: Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.  [moves toward the center of the stage]

Linus Van Pelt: Lights, please. [a spotlight shines on Linus]

Linus Van Pelt: "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 unto 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 Savior, 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 picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]

Linus Van Pelt: That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

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