Somehow, we are less than a week away from Christmas. And if you are anything like me, you probably have your favorite Christmas movies you like to watch every year. Perhaps you have a favorite iteration of ‘A Christmas Carol’, maybe you go full nostalgia and view ‘A Christmas Story’ on loop, or some of you may even be the kind of people who insist that ‘Die Hard’ is a Christmas movie. My family and I always make a point to watch ‘Home Alone’ and ‘Elf’ every December because if slapstick comedy isn’t proof that God loves us then I don’t know what is. While those are worthy viewing options, I believe there is one Christmas movie that embodies the Christmas story most profoundly of all.
And that movie is simply titled ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’. Released in 1965 as the first of many Peanuts films and television productions, it remains the crown jewel of them all. Besides the magnificent soundtrack from Vince Guaraldi, it is full of powerful lessons on friendship, selflessness, and ultimately the Good News of Jesus Christ. Charlie Brown is experiencing a fair bit of melancholy during the Christmas season as he sees others having a great time buying gifts, ice skating, and participating in other activities that are December staples. He shares with his friends that he just doesn’t understand why he feels ‘down in the dumps’ while everyone else seems to be full of excitement and enthusiasm.
In order to help him out, his friends essentially tell him that he needs to do something that gets him contributing to other people. They assure him that if he can be part of something that is focused on others and enables him to collaborate with others to bring about something good then he’ll begin to experience the joy of the Christmas spirit! With that goal in mind, he becomes the director of the Christmas play. Alas, while he attempts to heed their advice, he continues to find himself frustrated at his inability to figure out what ‘Christmas is all about’. When Charlie Brown reaches his low point in the middle of directing the play is when we are treated to perhaps the most unexpected moment in television broadcast history. Charlie Brown’s best friend, Linus, goes onto the stage and proclaims the Christmas story as recounted in the Gospel of Luke - with the angels, and the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and the newborn Jesus in the manger. He declares that the reality of the God who has created everything becoming small and near to us humans is what Christmas is all about and what should encourage Charlie Brown to discover some measure of joy in his life, whatever struggles he might be enduring!
My prayer for each of us is that whatever suffering, anxiety, or melancholy we may be experiencing in our lives would be lightened, even if just a bit, by the Good News of Christmas - God has come near in Jesus Christ, He is near to us now in the Eucharist, He is our companion on the way to our home with the Father!