Peanuts' Linus Explains Christmas!

Monique and I made a visit to Springfield's Chiara Center during this Christmas season to review over 130 nativities on display for the annual Franciscan Nativity Festival. This was my second year to enjoy seeing the nativities in that beautiful setting. There were so many varieties exhibited from the complex to the simple, ceramic to wood, and hand-crafted to store bought. Each one had been loaned out for the event by owners who doubtless have cherished them for years! This "Nativity Arts' Revue" has become an important part of my annual Christmas observance!
Charlie Brown Christmas from Hallmark
Courtesy of M. Manci

Typically, I am taken in by those depictions that retell the Christmas story in a straightforward, simple and uncluttered way. Last year, I wrote about the Yupik (Eskimo) aboriginal peoples who visualized that first Christmas night of Christ's birth as occurring in an igloo with Mary and Joseph donning parkas (see A Fanciful Christmas Story, 12-6-18).

This year, my fancy fell upon a rendition of the Christmas story inspired by Charles Schulz, the beloved artist and creator of the Peanuts comic strip. Charlie Brown often asked questions that his friends were ready to answer. During the animated Christmas classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie inquires of his blanket-carrying friend, Linus Von Pelt, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"  And this inspired the reading by Linus of the Christmas story from Luke's gospel (2:8-14) to answer the question.

I have read that there was some "push back" by the producers when Schultz first insisted that the Scriptures be read during the animated show. Their concern was that it could be problematic and it was Bill Melendez, the lead animator, who told Schulz, "It's dangerous for us to start talking about religion now." But, the inspired creator answered their concerns emphatically, "If we don't (speak about the Christmas story), who will?" The end of that conversation resulted in the reading of the Scriptural account. When the show debuted on December 9, 1965, it became the second-most watched holiday special on CBS that week with 40% of all television sets tuned in to watch it! That's what Christmas is all about!

Each of the figurines in this Nativity display have a portion of the Scripture's testimony at their base. Snoopy is dressed as a little lamb and his inscription says, "And there were shepherds keeping watch over their folks by night" (Luke 2:8). And Lucy re-assuredly holds her hand out and exclaims, "And the Angel came to them and said, 'Fear not!'" (2:10).  At the base of the feed trough that holds the Baby Jesus is the statement, "For unto you is born a Savior!" (2:11, KJV).

Have you been asked lately to explain what Christmas is all about? This season is full of opportunities to share the story of Christ's birth with our children, grand children, curious youth and adults, our neighbors and co-workers, and others who may have not yet been exposed to the Christian faith. Pray that God will use you during this celebrative season to explain what Christmas and Christ's Coming are all about. In the words of the late Charles Schulz, "If we don't, who will?"

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.


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