Category Archives: Faith

linus-charlie-brown-christmas

“Isn’t There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas is All About?”

It was 1965 and Charles Schultz continued to create the timeless comic strip Peanuts. The producers at CBS took a chance on creating an animated Christmas special.  As the story boards were being created and the concept was being set in motion, there were conversations happening between the creator and the people from CBS. What kind of music?  We find out that Charles Schultz wasn’t sure about the jazz music.  Which has not only continued to be part of the program but it has become part of many people’s Christmas music library.

Not only was their discussion over the music, there were some who were not sure about the ending.  Do we really think that people will want the Christmas story quoted from the Bible?  Well as it ends up Schultz gave in on the Jazz music and CBS gave in on the passage from the gospel of Luke.

The story line is classic. Charlie Brown, conflicted again, bring his concerns to Lucy who has a Psychiatric “lemonade” stand. He continues to ask Linus and even after taking on the role of director of  the Christmas program filled with dancing children, Snoopy making animal noises and Lucy wanting to be the Christmas queen, he cries out, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

It seems that the same challenges face us today. “Isn’t There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas is All About?”

What do you find yourself thinking during this Christmas season? Where are you spending most of your time?  Are you just as discouraged as Charlie Brown? Have you found yourself looking at websites for Christmas cruises or short weekends away in the mountains?  Maybe instead you have found yourself bearing all the expectations of your family, parents or church?

It is so hard to dim the lights, drop our blue security blanket on the floor and begin to tell our hearts, “what Christmas is all about.”

Luke 2 The Message (MSG)

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.  Take this to heart!  Stop.  Listen.  Consider.

Have you been in that auditorium? Have you been at the end of yourself?  The end of the program points to where you might need to begin.

The children who have made fun of Charlie Brown’s little tree, find that all it needed was a little love!  The tree that was once made fun of becomes the object of their attention.

Jesus is that little tree!  He was the object of scorn. He took on human flesh, became a man so that he could take our place on a Cross. Joseph was told, “Call Him Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.”

The children, circle around the tree and begin to sing at the end of the program.

CharlieBrownChristmas

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

This is what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.

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Just in case you missed it here is a clip of the last portion of the program

Who Are You Thanking on Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving Day by Bonnie White

Thanksgiving Day by Bonnie White

Ok so most of us are planning a family gathering Thanksgiving.  Some of you are most likely wondering if there is anyway to avoid the tension and stress as families unite, cooks pack the kitchen, and people arrive bearing side items and desserts.

I’m honestly not bothered by the chaos.  However there are some in my family who find getting the food ready on time, carving the turkey or getting the green beans just right as a stressor. (I just avoid the kitchen)

This year my family has experienced a faith building situation as my Dad is going through treatment for cancer.  Yuck.  That’s not something to look forward to during the Thanksgiving Holidays.  So Dad having to go thru radiation treatment over an 8 week period has changed some of this years family traditions.  Some of my family, not to name names but they are the only 2 nephews, will certainly miss the crockpot macaroni and cheese. But the thing that I’m considering is how a change in focus from all the food and preparation reminded me of what I am thankful for and Who I am Thanking.

Normally after a big meal and a few too many pieces of pie, we wipe our mouths and say, thanks to the cook or cooks.  “that was great, thanks.”  I’m thinking the change will be good and help us think about how precious it is to be together.

This year, we’re planning on having sandwiches, stuff all us children can bring in, so that Mom doesn’t have to do much more than make iced tea.  I’m hoping the lack of a table full of food helps us consider that it isn’t just about thanking the cooks but being thankful period.

Not only do we need to be grateful, we need to remember who we are Thanking.  America has a long tradition of thanksgiving.  As with many holidays, Thanksgiving has turned into another way to make us spend more on groceries or food channels to show 10 new ways to use left over turkey.  However, the whole point was that we would take time to stop and gather with the people we care about and talk about why we are thankful and to whom we are thankful.

George Washington proclaimed a day of thanksgiving on Oct 3, 1789 and pointed us to the fact that it is our duty to “acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor” 1

For it is not just the cooks and those who provided the food for our meal that we thank.  It’s not just the Thanksgiving Dinner or the family that is gathered, our focus as in all things to see that it is the hand of Almighty God, our Provider and Sustainer, the God of the Bible who has given us all things.

So this Thanksgiving – Remember who to Thank!

Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. “Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name ..” … 1 Chron 29:12-13.

Enjoy the good gifts of God!

1 Timothy 4:4-5

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,  because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Hobbits, Legends, Myths Echoes of Eden

Desolation of Smaug

I’m excited about the next installment in the Hobbit Movie trilogy by Peter Jackson.  Modern technology and filmmaking have enabled these creative people to make some amazing films.  I am sometimes taken back at the popularity of them. But I shouldn’t really.  For when we consider the great stories of our time, there is something about them that resonates with something bigger, something in the back of our minds, something that says Yes!  Jerram Barrs calls these the “echoes of eden.”

One foundational truth of Christianity is that we have descended from a historical Adam and Eve, who were created by a personal God. They were representing all humanity, and Adam as the first man was placed in a position where he and God lived under a promise. The contract was one with blessing and curse. “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

We know the story, as it is handed down, Eve tempted by the serpent, who was Satan, believed the lie, that God was withholding something, freedom, and she also believed that she wouldn’t die. Adam, I believe, was standing there silently avoiding his responsibility to guard, love and provide for Eve. He took and ate as well.

Things changed. From the moment of Adam’s disobedience, they were no longer in a perfect relationship with God. The curse which follows sin, resulted in not only their physical death and decay of all creation, but also the spiritual death and alienation from God.

The agony of this alienation was brokenness in their relationship with God and also with one another. Hiding in the garden, Adam and Eve try to cover their shame and nakedness.

The story continues. God in the cool of the evening, arrives walking and seeking Adam.

In the midst of the shame God comes. He at once shows his holiness by casting them from the garden and at the same time shows mercy clothing them and showing them the promise of a redeemer.

These first chapters of Genesis, which some consider fairy tales, resonate in us today. Others have looked at the history of God’s plan in terms of Creation, Fall and Redemption. Throughout history mankind has told myths and stories that bring hope from tragedy. There are many stories where a hero from humble birth arrives to save his people, stories of the humble coming to bring restoration through sacrifice.

J.R.R. TolkienI am a great fan of Tolkien. J.R.R. Tolkien was a big proponent of telling stories. He believed that the myths and great stories of time echoed the truth. (Read On Fairy-Stories pdf) Humanity having come from the same parents, bring with them an awareness of truth. It is interesting how even those who are not very interested in spiritual things, love the the story of a Hobbit. We see an humble person part of a greater story. We see the values of courage in the face of fear. We see self sacrifice for the good of others. How many people long for the Return of the King, who defeats the evil Sauron, heals the sick and injured with his touch and brings peace throughout the kingdom?

I believe that the Christian who is a writer, musician, dancer, painter, photographer, designer, composer, director, or in any creative field, has the opportunity to communicate profound ideas from God’s word, communicating what Francis Schaeffer called True Truth.1 We can write great stories, sing great songs, paint wonderful works, that share the same echoes of eden.

We can enjoy the creativity and works that others make as well. We can look with discernment and see where others connect sometimes unknowingly to the very ideas we celebrate in the gospel. For we all long for wholeness and goodness. We all look for someone to help make things right. We ache and groan with all of creation for the moment the King returns to make all things right.

Where do you see the echoes of Eden in the creative work of others?

 

 

 

1. It is an important principle to remember, in the contemporary interest in communication and in language study, that the biblical presentation is that though we do not have exhaustive truth, we have from the Bible what I term true truth. In this way we know true truth about God, true truth about man, and something truly about nature. Thus on the basis of the Scriptures, while we do not have exhaustive knowledge, we have true and unified knowledge.
(Francis A. Schaeffer, Escape From Reason, Ch. 2)