The holiday season is filled with traditions. We do the same things each year, each repetition building on previous memories. For many of us those traditions include the retelling of favorite stories that touch on universal themes.
“It’s a Wonderful Life,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “White Christmas,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “A Christmas Story.” The list is long and we each have our personal Top Ten list.
One of the most enduring Christmas stories has to be “A Charlie Brown Christmas” featuring Charlie Brown in his first TV appearance (1965) searching for the meaning of Christmas. Poor Charlie Brown recognizes that he is lacking the excitement of the season. Something is missing.
He looks around him and sees commercialization everywhere, even his beloved Snoopy gets involved in an over the top holiday lights contest. His sister asks him to write a letter to Santa telling him to “just send money.” Lucy’s 5-cent psychiatric advice leads him to directing the school Christmas show and we all know how well that goes.
Finally, Charlie has had all he can take; he throws down his director’s megaphone and cries, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
Linus steps forward and recites the story of the birth of the Christ Child from the Gospel of Luke reminding Charlie Brown and the rest of us of the real meaning of Christmas, ending with…
“Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace and good will toward men.”
“And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!”
Linus’ words ring as true today as they did 51 years ago, as they did two millennia ago.
If Charlie Brown was worried about the commercialization of Christmas in 1965, it is surely more of a challenge today.
Linus announces that Christmas is a racket, controlled by a big Eastern syndicate. But there’s no conspiracy involved. Christmas has been used to boost retail sales for decades. That isn’t likely to change.
LInus reminds us that the meaning of Christmas is not hidden by commercialism-it’s always right in front of us. It’s all about which direction you choose to look.
How many times do we find ourselves overwhelmed by the hustle of the holidays? The decorations, cards, gifts, baking, parties, travel–the never-ending lists, the expectations of the “perfect” holiday, the financial pressure…
Those lists and those expectations can take over the holiday. Sometimes we’re like Charlie Brown and need a reminder.
Sometimes we need to relearn the same lesson that the Grinch learned from the residents of Whoville after he stole all their Christmas trimmings:
“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
Even if you are not a Christian, if Christmas for you is all about Santa, Rudolph, and gifts, the Christmas season is a special season. People tune into the needs of those around them-the hungry, the poor, the lonely. Smiles come a little quicker. There is recognition of our shared humanity. People are just plain nicer.
“…and on Earth, Peace and Good Will toward men.”
It’s sad that we need a special season or date to remind us of what we should recognize and appreciate year round. We could bemoan that fact, along with the commercialization of Christmas as so many do.
I’d rather appreciate the season of warmth while it’s here.
Savor the memories, make some new ones. Spend time with those who bring meaning to your life. Tell them how important they are. Share what you can with those who need it, whether it’s a bag of food or an hour of conversation or a kind word while you hold the door for them. You’ll both be richer for the experience.
Just for a moment, step out of the whirlwind of holiday expectations and appreciate the joy and harmony of this amazing season. Just for a moment, wrap yourself in the feel-good atmosphere that surrounds us and enjoy it.
May this season bring you and yours joy and peace. May we all find ways to bring peace and harmony to each other and the world around us.
Missy and Bob Layfield
This Editorial was first published on December 23, 2011.