What is the meaning of Christmas? Charlie Brown cried out lamenting the fuss and commercialization that he saw all around him. And so, Linus, recites to Charlie Brown the Nativity narrative from the Gospel of Luke, like we just heard it read a moment ago. With no other explanation, leaving Charlie Brown and the rest of us to figure it out.
Charlie Brown is not the only one to ask the question through song and film. John Lennon composed,
And so this is Christmas /For weak and for strong/ For rich and the poor ones/ The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas/ For black and for white/ For yellow and red one/ Let’s stop all the fight
A very Merry Christmas/ And a happy new year/ Let’s hope it’s a good one/ Without any fear
Charles Dickins, in the 19th century, wrote A Christmas Carol, featuring the transformation of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, from being a penny pinching, ruthless, and uncompassionate business owner, to be given a second chance at life following three visitations in the night.
Centuries before the Christ child was born, the prophet Isaiah, wrote, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined.”
Christmas comes for us in the northern hemisphere at the same time the more ancient observance of the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year heralding the return of light following a season of growing darkness. So this can be part of the deeper meaning of Christmas… the early and vulnerable flicker of light, a lifting of a long dark season of life, a time when grief and conflict and sadness has been a constant companion.
The story of the Christ child fits at this time of year for us. It is why the Church placed it here amidst our annual pilgrimage through the life of Jesus. The birth is the breaking forth from the darkness and mystery of the womb, into the light and visibility of the world. What was once the dream of God’s presence and grace and peace amongst us, became flesh, became near, became our companion, our brother, our son, our Savior.
Christmas is waking up and becoming aware of just how short sighted, ego-driven, self-absorbed, and misguided we have been as person, community, city, nation, and world. Like Ebenezer, realizing what a pauper we have been amidst all of our riches.
We need Christmas this year, not only for the retailers, but for the governments of our world locked and crippled by division and conflict. We need Christmas for the multitudes whose lives are burdened with illness, and addiction, and in-debtedness We need Christmas, as John Lennon wrote, for black and white, red and yellow to stop all the fighting.
We need to see the light dawning upon the long dark night of injustice and animosity perpetrated by the dominant cultures and groups upon the minority cultures and groups in our world. We need to see the light dawning upon the long dark night of the Brexit grid-lock, the political war between the two parties in our own government, the endless corruption and mis-management in developing and struggling countries, the alarming disproportion of wealth and well-being in our own nation and other nations in our world, and see the governments of all nations fall upon the shoulders of those we proclaim as wonderful, counselor, compassionate. We need to see the light of peace and beloved community arising amidst the dark night of anger and polarization in our world.
We need Christmas this year, especially for those who have walked through the valley of cancer, and heartache, and grief, and diminishment of health. We need Christmas this year for those who are still lost without the ones with whom they have loved and partnered for decades. We need Christmas this year to shine the lights of faith, hope, and love amidst a world given to too much cynicism and self- gratification and self-interest. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, I think most of us need a wake-up call in our life, to cease being part of the growing faction and friction, to become part of wholeness and wellness of our shared communities.
This is Christmas, Charlie Brown, when the long awaited dreams of this world, dreams of peace and goodness, and community, and well-being, are brought forth from the dark womb of dreams, into the vulnerable light of the manger to be guarded, nurtured and raised in our world today. To be lived in our lives everyday.
This is Christmas: Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all,
This is Christmas: “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
2:11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
2:12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
This is Christmas: Those for whom are heavy-laden, broken-hearted, stricken with grief, acquainted with sorrow, lowly and powerless –
9:4 the yoke of your burden, and the bar across your shoulders, and the rod of your oppressor, has been broken this day,
9:5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire, creating the great light at the end of the long darkness)
9:6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
This is Christmas: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined.