Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!
All fall, and into the winter, I have been running a Zoom bible study for young adults and during the season of Advent we've been reading stories of the Nativity from all of the different Gospels. The "in the beginning was the Word," the "shepherds watching over their flock by night" and "In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered," and "Greetings favored one, the Lord is with you" and the gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
The week before Christmas, we read the passage from the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, and watched the scene from a Charlie Brown Christmas, Linus' recitation of that same passage. The scene begins like this:
others: "You're hopeless Charlie Brown, completely hopeless."
CB: "R A T S"
others: "You've been dumb before Charlie Brown but this time you really did it"
others: "What a trEE"
CB: "Everything I do turns into a disaster, I guess I don't really know what Christmas is all about -- isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about!!!"
In even the best of years, there can be a letdown after the actual day of Christmas -- like the anticipation is better than the thing itself, and the slow slide from holiday festivities into the January doldrums. The presents are open, the family and friends disperse, the decorations come down and it's back to real life -- back to NORMAL life. In the best of years, there can be a letdown; this has not exactly been the best of years. For many people, this whole Christmas season has been overshadowed by anxiety about COVID and the omicron variant, difficult decisions about traveling and testing and quarantining and gathering. For many, grief at what or who has been lost in the last two years has been guest at the holiday table. For others, this brief holiday respite has been a momentary hedge about the challenges await us back at work and at school in January.
In a year like this, it has been easy to recognize how much our sense of Christmas spirit -- how much the meaning of Christmas -- is buoyed by festivities and in their absence to second guess what Christmas is all about. So when Charlie Brown cried out "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about!!!!", I heard it with fresh ears this year, and I will invite you to hear it with fresh ears too.
"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about!!!"
What is the meaning of Christmas?
Why is it good tidings of great joy that unto us a Savior was born?
Why is it good news that God was born among us as a little vulnerable baby?
I enjoy the Christmas playlists, the peppermint flavored everything, the tree and the lights and the presents, the big get togethers as much as anyone, but with or without those things, the Good News of Christmas might be that this is a world worth being born into, that we are a people worth being among, even for God. With or without the festivities, without or without the get togethers, with or without the pandemic or political divisions or hurting or harm or longing, this is a world worth being born into and Christmas is our reminder to give it another chance, because God gives this world another chance. We might imagine that God knew what kind of a broken, hurting world this was -- a fact we are well aware of these days -- and God chose to enter is a newborn, vulnerable, dependent, and with fresh eyes and a fresh heart.
Our encouragement and our hope is to choose this world again too, and to know that choosing this world in the way that God chose it would be to approach like Jesus did -- vulnerable, dependent, and with fresh eyes and a fresh heart -- and to know that it is always worth it to choose this world again.
Whether or not you've had to make due with a raggedy little Charlie Brown tree, or at whatever point the decorations come down and the people go home, even the day after or the week or month after Christmas, this is the Good News of the Incarnation of Jesus Christmas -- this is a world worth loving. And you're just going to have to take Linus's word for it.