A Charlie Brown Christmas?
Fifty years ago, a little boy named Charlie Brown asked, “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” In December of 1965, The United States was embroiled in a war that she couldn’t win; a new pope had recently challenged the status quo for the Catholic Church, bringing freshness and hope; and the latest toy crazes were more important than the other people in the stores. Doesn’t sound too different from today, does it?
The fact is, life doesn’t change that much. We are still complaining about the government, our paychecks, and, if you’re older “the state of the world today” or, if you’re younger, “my parents don’t understand me.” We are still asking, like Charlie Brown, “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” Is racking up debt for gifts, enduring endless hours of cooking for 15 minutes of eating, and embarrassing ourselves because of too much eggnog all there is? Or is there something more?
Where do we get an answer? From Lucy and her nickel’s worth of psychiatric advice? Therapy is a good tool, but it doesn’t have all the answers and it certainly can’t solve our problem in 2 minutes of platitudes. Does the answer come in the form of innovative and increasingly bizarre ways to interpret tradition, so that “naturally curly hair” can take over the spotlight, or each player on the stage is dancing to his own drumbeat, with no coordination or theme? No!
The answer, not surprisingly, comes from Charlie’s best friend, Linus Van Pelt. A personal friend is more effective than any screaming on the internet, or even a homily at Midnight Mass. Linus reminds Charlie, and each of us, that the true meaning of Christmas is “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace, good will toward men,” quoting the same Gospel passage we read tonight.
As a matter of fact, Christmas is all about friendship, and about relationships. Scientists and theologians are always asking the question, “What if?” Several theologians throughout history have asked, “What if Adam and Eve had never sinned? Would the Eternal Son of God have taken on our humanity?” Their conclusion, surprisingly, is “yes.” The Son of God was not content to help us from heaven; he wants to experience what we experience. He took on our human nature so that he could understand us better and so he could live like we do, sharing our joys and sorrows, our strength and weakness. In short, he wants to be our friend.
Jesus Christ took on everything it means to be a human person, except sin. He is a divine being, with both a divine and human nature. He shared our joys and our sorrows, our triumphs and our defeats. Although Linus says, “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you are the Charlie Browniest,” we could say, “Of all the humans in the world, Jesus Christ is the human-est.”