One of my all-time favorite Christmas cartoons is “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which came out in 1965. It’s Christmas experienced by the characters from Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip, a comic full of the angst, failures, and the social ineptness in a group of kids.
People loved it because it reflected life, which is full of misfits, unrequited love, and disappointment.
It’s quite timely for our current reality.
Near the end, Charlie Brown found a sad little Christmas tree to be part of their Christmas program. It had lost most of its needles; it leaned. Truly pathetic.
But when surrounded by love, it became a thing of beauty.
The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center this year is a Charlie Brown tree. Social media was full of naysayers who had nothing but disparaging remarks about it. With gaping holes on one side and sparse branches on another, it’s the saddest, most unlovely tree imaginable.
Why would they pick such a messy tree?
There’s a reputation to uphold. The tree at the Rockefeller Center is historically a huge tree of great beauty, brilliantly lit, a tourist attraction throughout the holidays.
It makes sense in this COVID year of disappointments and failures that this tree would be as needy and wanting as we are.
It didn’t remain a misshapen, unhappy tree. With skilled workmen filling in gaps and layering it with lights and decorations, it became a beautiful tree.
A managed image.
Life during COVID is not as easily supervised and monitored. There’s not a lot we can do to make our current reality pretty.
This season could feel like a disappointment. It won’t be “Christmas as usual” for anyone. We’re confronted with a virus and global conditions that can’t be made pretty or festive, no matter how many lights and decorations are put on it.
Despair isn’t the answer. So many are feeling the effects of loss and pain that despair can become a default, a place to go that makes sense because pain pushes us to dark places. Nobody wants to choose that option, even if it feels like the world is forcing that possibility on us.
Now more than ever we’re seeing that Christmas isn’t about gifts, lights, and huge Christmas parties we’ve become used to. We’ve been stripped of what we’ve expected and are left with a simple reality.
Christmas is about the fulfillment of a promise given thousands of years ago when God guaranteed He would provide a Savior for His creation. One who would come, unassuming and without fanfare, to bring true peace to those who would receive it.
There will always be those who refuse the hope offered. Those who see Christmas as a break from work, a chance to buy gifts they can’t afford, and to grumble about the stress of a season that was never intended to be stressful.
God made this season beautiful by gifting us with His Son, who left the glory of heaven to take on human form. A baby.
To save the world.
The hope is in the gift.
Jesus came without robes or crown to bring peace to people. Messy beauty.
Even Charlie Brown understood that.