Sunday, December 17, 2023

Evergreen and Everlasting

When I was young, it was important to my family that we get a “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree—a tree that others might look over. Not the most symmetrical, bushy, or beautiful, but full of character and up to the task of displaying our twinkle lights and ornaments.

The holiday classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas, first aired on CBS in 1965. Just like Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip, the TV special follows Charlie Brown and his comrades. This time, they are preparing for a Christmas play. In his new job as director, Charlie Brown sets out to find a Christmas tree to help set the stage. Only he doesn’t select the expected fake, shiny tree with sparkling tinsel, but a struggling little evergreen that can hardly hold onto its needles, much less a Christmas ornament.

Charlie Brown wants to give this little tree a chance. It is an evergreen after all.

Since the beginning of the Christmas tree, evergreen trees have been used as a part of the Christmas celebration. Early Christians equated evergreen trees with everlasting life with God. Indeed, coniferous trees of any kind are a beautiful image of the kingdom of eternity inaugurated by Jesus’ birth.

When Charlie Brown chose a “real” tree for their Christmas play, he was choosing something that would last much longer than all the commercialized holiday cheer he saw around him. His young, depressed heart sought something deeper. But when Charlie Brown and Linus arrive back at the theater with the tree, they are met with ridicule:

Lucy: You were supposed to get a good tree. Can't you even tell a good tree from a poor tree? . . . You've been dumb before, Charlie Brown, but this time you really did it. What a tree.

[All Laughing] 
Charlie Brown: I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn't have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don't know what Christmas is all about.
(shouting in desperation): Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?
Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.
Lights, please.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men." (Luke 2:8-14 KJV)
That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
The angels said, “Good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Did you catch that “all”? It was good news when the people of Israel heard the news of the Messiah from the prophets. It was good news for the shepherds and people living in Bethlehem. It was good news for the Magi, traveling across deserts to reach a forecasted king. It was good news when Jesus began His earthly ministry, teaching and healing, sacrificing and resurrecting. And it is good news for us today. Only an Everlasting Jesus could make that much difference to that many generations of His children. “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!”

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