“And the angel said unto them, fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” ~ Luke 2:10-11
Let me start by saying that I am a Cradle Catholic… What’s more, I am an Irish Roman Catholic which means I’ve even mixed a bit of Druid in there for good measure… They say once a Catholic, always a Catholic, and I guess that’s true because I cannot deny that much of my life has been informed by that upbringing and to some extent, I see the world through those filters.
However, I like to think that I’ve arrived at a place where I can, and do take my “meaning,” if you will, from many, many faiths. I find that truth is truth wherever you find it… So, having said that, let me share this little story with you…and let’s not think of it as a Catholic story…or even a Christian story…or maybe not even a story any one faith – but perhaps all of them.
I’ve not really counted for myself, but I’ve heard it said that the phrase “fear not” appears in the Bible 365 times ─ or once for each day of the year. I don’t know if it’s really in there 365 times, but I do know it makes a great story, and it is in fact the most repeated phrase found in the entire Bible.
The reason I bring this up is that each year, CBS dutifully airs “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” as it has each year since its debut on December 9, 1965. And as we were, our children were also raised with it. It has been a staple for every generation since our parents ─ you know, the ones Tom Brokaw referred to as “The Greatest Generation” ─ bought the first color TVs. So, for more than 50 years since its premiere, honored with both an Emmy and a Peabody Award, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” remains the single most beloved holiday TV special. It is a tradition in our home, as it is in so many.
For me, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” is more than just an annual Holiday tradition. To me, it best captures that something special that is at the very heart of what many people, myself included, call “The Christmas Spirit.” Now understand, as I’ve grown up, that thing ─ the feeling that I got as a kid ─ changed and became something much broader and more easily understood. It became a more seasonal recognition of when we all just try a little harder… to do a little better. To be better. When each of us – meaning most of us – become purposeful, intentional in making this world we live in a little bit better, if only for a few weeks out of the year.
My favorite part of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” is the segment when Linus takes the stage, centered in the spotlight, and begins reciting the traditional Christmas Story from Luke 2. As always Linus stands there with his trusty, powder-blue security blanket over one shoulder – the very icon of who Linus is in every Charles Schulz animation and comic strip. That little blanket represents Linus’s armor against all the fear, insecurity, and divisiveness in the world. And that is why I was all the more amazed by what I noticed, for the first time, only this last year. I mean, after all these year, there it was. Right in front of me…and I had never noticed.
When Linus, standing alone on the stage, framed in only a single spotlight, comes to the passage where he says “Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy…” he casually let’s fall his trusty blanket. Right as he says the words “Fear not,” he drops the very symbol of all his fear, all his insecurity, and it falls in a heap at his feet on the stage floor. In that moment he is transformed, free of all his fears and doubts. And what had already been a moment of pure Christmas Spirit for me, became something entirely new again. After so many years of seeing this same little TV holiday special, there it was, and all the magic and wonder I felt all those years ago came rushing back.
So, when you watch this beautiful little Christmas classic in 2020 with your kids, grandchildren (or maybe even your great-grand children!) … whether you are Catholic, or Protestant, or Jewish, or Hindu, or Muslim, or follow any faith… this time pay particular attention to that particular moment. I don’t believe for a minute it is coincidental. And, like so much of Charles Schultz’s genius, he put it there for us to see and feel…when we were ready to see it, and feel it.
In this beautiful season of Advent, and Christmas, and Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Chinese New Year, St. Lucia’s Day, Día de los Muertos, Las Posadas, Chung Yeung Festival, Boxing Day, Festivus, whatever… let’s remember what Charles Schulz was telling us all those years ago, and again each year. Let’s listen and learn from Linus’ example. Let’s strive to spend our days filled with “great joy.” Without fear, without hatred, without prejudice, without malice, without stress, without turmoil. Make time to relax and enjoy the season. And most of all, “Fear not!”
Have a blessed and celebrated Holiday Season!