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Sermon for Christmas Eve, 2018 -- Christmas According to Peanuts

“CHRISTMAS ACCORDING TO PEANUTS©”

-a sermon preached on Christmas Eve 2018 Pardeeville

(Luke 2:8-14)

 

          Christmastime is special for a number of reasons.  So much to see and to do.  Even your television is not immune to this phenomenon.  Lots of special programs are aired in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Everyone has their favorite.  Me?  I think one of the best Christmas programs ever was first broadcast 53 years ago…A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Like everything Charles Schulz put into his comic strip, there’s an important message contained in this cartoon story of a group of children getting ready for their Christmas play.  We get a glimpse of what that trouble is in the first minute of the show when Charlie Brown complains that he just doesn’t understand Christmas.  “I know I should be happy but I’m not”, he says.  Of course, avid readers of the comic strip Peanuts© know in an instant that Charlie Brown has a tough life.  The poor guy has very few successes.

          Throughout the first half of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, we see characters that represent different aspects of the holiday season.  Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s pet beagle, looks for the meaning of Christmas by entering a holiday lighting contest.  Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally, dictates a letter to Santa Claus…ending her long list of expected presents with, “Please note the size and color of each item and send as many as possible. If it seems too complicated, make it easy on yourself.  Just send money. How about tens and twenties?”  And when it comes time to get a Christmas tree for the community Christmas play, Lucy’s suggestion is to get a gaudy artificial one.  Of course, what Charlie Brown brings instead is the saddest excuse for a Christmas tree possible.  It loses some of its needles whenever it’s moved from one place to another.  The other children laugh at him.  That, in a nutshell, is the life of Charlie Brown.  Just to be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with holiday decorations or gifts or Christmas trees.  These are time-tested ways that we celebrate Christmas.

          Close to the end of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, the point is about to be made.  Again Charlie Brown admits that he just doesn’t know what Christmas is all about and, to no one in particular, he shouts, “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?”  Linus, the blanket-holding, thumb sucking youngster, has the answer.  Linus is the philosopher of the comic strip.  He’s the one who, on more than one occasion, gives us sage advice.  He’s the one who shares his experiences so we don’t make the same mistakes.  He once advised “Never jump into a pile of leaves holding a wet sucker!” And in this Christmas program, Linus is the one who knows what Christmas is all about.    He recites these verses from the Gospel according to Luke, using the King James translation…

 

“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 shown round about them. And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for

behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will 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. You 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, goodwill toward men.”

          There are numerous surprises in the story of the birth of Jesus.  You could almost share these events in comic strip form because they are, to say the least, unexpected.  Crazy things begin to happen when Elizabeth conceives in her old age.  There’s the fact that God chose a young, maybe thirteen year old girl from Nazareth to be the mother of the Son of God.  And the surprises just keep on coming tonight.  The first people to hear about the birth of Jesus are shepherds…regular old shepherds.  God doesn’t come to earth in a palace.  God comes to earth in a stable.  I mean you just can’t make this stuff up!  The story of Jesus’ birth is one that should encourage all of us.  Because tonight, God has come to all of us.  You don’t have to be rich or mighty or a member of some aristocracy.  You don’t have to have all the answers.  In fact, you don’t have to have any answers.  God comes to earth tonight…to become one of us and to save all of us.  That’s what we celebrate.  Very much like the shepherds, we are surprised by all this.  Yet we travel to see God.  We gather here tonight to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to revel in the fact that God comes to us, happy to be a part of our lives.

          I’m pretty sure that those shepherds were different people after having seen the Messiah.  And when we come to welcome Jesus, to invite him into our hearts, we’re going to be changed too.  So, in many ways, this is our night.  This is the night that changes us for the rest of our lives.  Glory to God in the highest.  On earth, peace to all.  That’s what Christmas is all about.  Thanks be to God and Merry Christmas!

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