Like most children, when the leaves began to change colors, and the weather began to get a little colder, a feeling of anticipation came right along with it. Christmas would be coming soon. Christmas meant a lot of things, as I'm sure it does to children today. It meant a break from school. It meant great food, candy and cookies. It meant spending time with family. It meant decorations and of course, it meant presents.
My sister and I used to always look forward to the various Christmas cartoons that would be on TV every year. From 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas to Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, we simply couldn't get enough.
As I look back, perhaps the one cartoon that stands out most of all was the Peanut's Christmas Special. I loved Charlie Brown and all the other characters (Snoopy was my absolute favorite). We would always laugh at the way they danced, and how Lucy would always pull the football away from poor Charlie as he tried to kick it. We always felt bad when he tried to bring home that little, run down Christmas tree and all the other kids made fun of him. It was at that point that Charlie asks if anyone can tell him the true meaning of Christmas.
That's when Charlie's best friend Linus, with his trusty blue blanket at his side, took center stage. Linus would tell Charlie Brown the meaning of Christmas and he would do so by quoting the Gospel of St. Luke:
"Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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!'" (Luke 2:8-14)
Today, the words "Happy Holidays" often replace "Merry Christmas" for fear of offending someone. When you consider that, it's amazing that a cartoon quoting Scripture still airs every year. Every year, Linus explains to Charlie Brown and all of their friends that the true meaning of Christmas isn't found in the biggest tree, or the fanciest decorations, or the best food, or the coolest new presents. It's found in a much simpler place. It's found in a manger. It's found by simple and humble shepherds.
As we go through the Nativity fast, and approach the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we can never lose sight of the true meaning of this Feast.
We will all have a lot of preparation to do. We will all decorate our trees and our homes. We will prepare for the big meal and brave the long lines at the malls. The most important preparation we have though, is to prepare to welcome Christ into the manger of our souls.
Take some time each day to pray, to reflect on the love God has for us that He would send us His Son. Imitate His example by finding ways to help those less fortunate during the cold winter months. Participate in the services your Church offers for this glorious feast.
And when you see that The Peanut's Christmas is going to air, take the time to check it out, and listen closely to Linus.
A Reflection From A Diocesan Priest