Thursday, December 01, 2016

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!

Today, my eighth graders watched Charlie Brown Christmas and took a quiz over the twenty-five minute film. On December 9, 1965, this now legendary holiday special was seen for the first time on CBS. The animated cartoon strip, which CBS executives feared would be poorly received, garnered a whopping 49% share of all televisions tuned in that night! I work with the Chinese portion of my church and I've found not everything American translates into every language. Preaching to brothers and sisters from another culture presents some unique challenges as you will see in this entry from December of 2005.

On the last Sunday of each month, I preach for our Chinese congregation at the Westbury church of Christ. On the first and third Sundays, the pulpit is filled by Dr. Robert Farrar, our Westbury Christian School chaplain. We are blessed with an excellent translator, Yirong Gu. This past Sunday, Doc began his sermon with an illustration. He mentioned a comic strip- Yirong was not sure what that was. Doc then made reference to Charlie Brown and Peanuts- another blank. Linus, Lucy-our interpreter was clueless. Yirong's English skills are excellent and he has lived in the US for a number of years but it didn't matter. I asked my Chinese students this week about Charlie Brown- same response. I guess Peanuts just doesn't cross some cultural borders!

This week marks the fortieth anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Its initial airing pulled in almost half the nation's viewing audience. There were a number of concerns about running it in the first place. Linus read straight from the scriptures, quoting from Luke 2. The soundtrack was much more jazz-oriented than the usual season's fare. The voices were supplied by children, some who could not read and were taught their lines phonetically. There were no adults in the cartoon and the action was terribly slow by modern standards. But the charm of this cartoon special has endured, now a fixture in five decades. I showed A Charlie Brown Christmas in my classes today, borrowing Karen McCarty's copy. (I am going to have to find a new tape- the wonderful Karen and family are moving to Italy in January.) This classic tale might be considered dull when compared to the animation possible today. A Charlie Brown Christmas is just a simple story about children and the way they look at Christmas. The sad truth is, they look at it like adults often do. The point Charles Schulz hammered at was the commercialization of the holiday season. We consider the 1960's to be such an innocent age- how much worse is the commercialization today? I heard a radio commercial this morning: "Nothing says I love you like a Rolex." Jesus had a much better interpretation of how to say you love someone:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Charlie Brown is all of us- he can't do anything right. He knows what he needs but he has a hard time expressing it. He lets his circumstances beat him down. He feels unworthy. That's the story of Jesus- the Savior coming to the world to save those who can't save themselves, a lost humanity stumbling in search of any hope. That's the best Christmas story of all because it's really the only Christmas story.

Applicable quote of the day:
"I'm not alone at all, I thought. I never was alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses."
Taylor Caldwell

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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