50 years ago, A Charlie Brown Christmas aired for the first time. Charlie Brown is best known for his uniquely striped shirt, and Linus is most associated with his ever-present security blanket. Throughout the story of Peanuts, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally and others all work to no avail to separate Linus from his blanket. And even though his security blanket remains a major source of ridicule for the otherwise mature and thoughtful Linus, he simply refuses to give it up.
In the climactic scene of the movie, in response to Charlie Brown’s question: “Can anyone tell me what Christmas is really about?”, Linus takes the center stage to quote Luke’s account of the birth of the savior. Mid way through, an amazing thing happens. As Linus is sharing “what Christmas is all about,” he drops his security blanket! And what is most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words, “fear not”, for behold I bring you tidings of good news…
Coincidence? I think not. What that great theologian Charles Schultz was trying to teach us, oh so subtly, was the profound truth that the birth of Jesus separates us from our fears. The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves. The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead.
50 years later (or 2000, depending on your perspective) we still have not learned that lesson very well. The world of 2015 has been a scary place, and most of us find ourselves grasping something other than Jesus as our security blanket. Some politicians want us to build higher and bigger walls between the US and Mexico to ease our fears. Some presidential candidates would have us close our borders to the biggest mass exodus in human history – as over 1 million people have fled the wars in Syria and Iraq to Europe this year. Some parents debate whether having a firearm in the house is a good deterrent or an unsafe risk against home invasion. Some students choose a wall of unfeeling rather than the vulnerability of relationship.
If Christ is to be our Savior as this day proclaims, then we need to acknowledge this difficult truth: we all carry security blankets around with us to keep fear at bay. Fear as an emotion comes to us all. And like Linus and his blanket, the temptation is to cling to something, anything that will help us manage that fear, even if it makes us look silly…
Isn’t the challenge of this day to learn how to let the one who is Wonder counselor, God-hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace be just that in our day and time? Perhaps this is the Christmas in which our response, both individually and as a nation, needs to be exactly what Linus chose in that cartoon 50 years ago: To let go of all the ‘security blankets’ WE cling to out of fear to really hear and heed the message of the angel: “Do not be afraid.” Can we learn how to NOT decide and act from those places of fear – but rather from a place of trust in the goodness of God?
So, what other wisdom did Charles Schultz have up his sleeve in that theological classic of his to help us do that? I think it is this image of what happens when we learn to act out of trust and not fear. Linus does pick up his blanket at the end of his monologue, and carries it again, but only for a short time. And only to lay it at the feet of that poor, lonely, sad Charlie Brown Christmas tree. In doing so, Linus is responding to that invitation to ‘fear not.’ And as the rest of the cast assemble around the tree, and effortlessly slide into “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” an amazing thing happens. That scraggly, struggling, bare boned twig of a Christmas tree becomes this thing of beauty.
I like to believe that this is precisely what would happen in our world if we all had the courage to respond to the Angel’s message to “fear not.” I wonder:
• how many Syrian refugee families might be adopted?
• how many failing kids in failing school districts might find tutors who would mentor them into life?
• how many families broken by addiction would find treatment?
• how many siblings estranged by long forgotten slights might find the courage this season to reconnect?
• how many governments might find the path to peace this day?
What an amazing beauty we might create…
This Christmas, hear the invitation to lay all your security blankets down – all the defenses, all the clinging to the very real and sometimes not so real fears – to lay them down not just anywhere, but forever at the foot of the manger, before the One who is indeed our prince of peace. “Fear Not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy…” That was true 50 years ago in A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was true 2000 years ago on that hillside in Jerusalem. And, it is true for us all this night…
(Jason Soroski, a blogger and youth pastor was the source of the Charlie Brown Christmas insight about Linus dropping the blanket…