We all know about the commercial aspect of it. We complain, poke and prod it every year. We criticize it until the criticism it no longer lines up with our shopping sprees. Our list. The deals we'll get and the bargains we'll use to justify our role in it all.
Christmas is a rush. I told Barbara that it felt like Christmas was already over. I told her this a few weeks ago. The schedule gets packed pretty tightly on Christmas. We go out to parties, we plan events, we find baby sitters so that we can participate in celebrating with the people that we know and the people we care about.
Add it all up and you've got New Years breathing down your neck. It's a hectic pace. The eating, the drinking. The late night car rides in the storms. I feel bloated. I need to lose weight. I need to exercise. Do I get up in the morning or stay up late at night? Either way, I am exercising in pitch darkness. I am jogging in freezing temperatures. I am going over to so and so's house to eat a pile of bird and trimmings. My 3rd this year.
Christmas is music. The generic noise of whatever "It's Christmas time" song happens to be playing this hour. Next hour we're going to hear the same song, but this time it will be Reggae and we'll all have a good laugh because it's funny to imagine all of the fake snow on a beach somewhere. The sentimental tone of each and every knock-off Christmas song is enough to drive someone insane. Sort of a Christmas spirit overdose.
And then you hear a song that floats down on you like soft, clean snow. Making the whole sham new again. Restoring your hope in authenticity and openness.
Christmas is family. Family is great. It's you. My family is me. It's acceptance and eating together. It's kids running around with new things. Kids fighting over their new toys. It's just so great and real.
There are plenty other things that go into Christmas, but for now I would like to focus on just one more.
Christmas is something about no fear. Remember those t-shirts? We were so tough back then, weren't we? Not scared of nothin' or nobody.
When I think of it at Christmas time I think of Charlie Brown walking around all worried and depressed. He gets the directors gig and still he screws it up. As if a little community play could dig himself out of the ashes.
I can relate to our friend, Charlie. He's depressed. He's probably pretty upset that he's so bald, too. Charlie wants something. His dog decides to go out and just crush everyone in the Christmas Light contest. Lucy is making bank at her booth. Even the smelly kid feels good about himself. Charlie wants a little bit of what everyone else has. He wants to fear not.
Then Charlie goes out with Linus to look for a Christmas tree.
The line that gets me.
"This little green one here seems to need a home."
Charlie still fighting the good fight. Confused, scared, insecure, yet something in him sees the good in Christmas. Right there in the middle of all that titanium and aluminum.
What will the others say? What kind of director's decision is this? Career suicide?
Fear not. This tree is the one. This tree will bring everyone together in the end, Charlie Brown.
Later on we hear Linus' speech. He reads from the Bible.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.
Linus drops his security blanket and announces that we are not to fear.
Good News, great joy, for all the people.
I think that Christmas means we don't need to be afraid. We don't need to be afraid of life. We don't need to be afraid when things shine with the glory of God. The shepherds' instinct is to be afraid of God? And the Angel tells them not to fear. This God, they say. He need not be feared.
Don't be afraid. God is good. This is good news. Great joy. For all.
It's right there in the passage.
Jesus is born. He's going to grow up and teach us new things. He's going to be the friend of sinners. He's going to dine with us. He's going to show us that God is for us. He is going to be one of us, and he is going to show us that we don't need to be afraid.
I worry about a lot of things. I am afraid of a lot of things. I know a lot of people who live in constant fear, and sometimes I can understand why. We are floating on a rock. The science of it all makes me nauseous. Suspended on a string, we are.
And yet, every year we come around to Christmas. The shopping, the rush, the jingle bells and the families that we share it all with. How will we pay off the bills this year? How fat will I get this winter? What will the future hold? Which ones will be with us next year and what will become of the ones that are gone?
Fear not. I bring you good news. Great Joy. For all people.