Friday, December 8, 2017

So Many Christmas Shows

Each and every year, the Christmas season kicks into high gear just as Thanksgiving arrives. In reality, some of the Christmas celebration and landscape transformation comes even before for the big day of thanks rolls around. And without question Black Friday certainly reveals that December 25th is not too  far away.

But one of the signs that the season is upon us is the relentless flood TV of specials that seem to come our way nearly nonstop. Some of these have been around forever and bring back fond memories of our childhood. For instance, the season cannot go by without the airing of classic productions like “Rudolph”, “White Christmas”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, “Frosty”, “It’s A Wonderful Life” and, of course, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

Then, too, there is a second level of programs, some a bit newer, that have become part of the fabric of the season as well. These would include titles like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, “Elf”, “Home Alone”, “Little Drummer Boy”, “Muppet Christmas”, “Polar Express”, “The Santa Claus”, and one of my all-time favorites, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”.

Along with these, another large collection of seasonal programming has come into being. This is by way of the Hallmark Channel, which is widely known for family friendly content. The network’s Christmas shows also begin around Thanksgiving and seem to be on the air seven days a week. The story lines are often somewhat predicable. Many seem to end up with a happy and romantic conclusion somewhere out in the country on Christmas Eve as the snow gently begins to fall. Sound familiar?

But as I thought about the large majority of these shows, and even much of the Christmas music we hear, it dawned on me that they have one thing in common. Despite the warm memories they conjure up, and their undeniable entertainment value, they have little to do with the deep significance of the holiday they revolve around. Without question, I adore some of these programs and always will, and I always try to take in my favorites if possible. But how many of them solidly explain, or even make reference to, the coming of the incarnate Son of God in that manger long ago? We can watch the vast majority of these and never hear that Christ came to earth and was wrapped in human flesh in order to have God and sinners reconciled.

So the reality is that watching many of these various holiday programs will better provide a good grasp on the fictional activities at the North Pole each year. As a result, many today can describe what Santa’s army of elves do, the method he transports his goodies about, and can even recite the names of  his famous flying creatures that drag his legendary sled around the entire globe in just one night. This part of the season is not so much wrong, but it just needs to be balanced out with the true historical, spiritual and eternal account of the incarnation of Christ.

But there is just one show in particular that has distinguished itself from the pack. It first aired on December 9, 1965. The format was that of a cartoon, and the budget was a mere $92,000. The voices of the various characters were actually those of the young neighborhood kids of the author Charles Schultz. Many of those who recited their adorable parts were too young to even read at the time. This, of course, is the most beloved holiday show of them all – “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Most know the music by heart and can repeat many of the show’s humorous lines. But it is the profound words uttered near the end that make this program so special and so unique.

Throughout the show, a reflective Charlie Brown is struggling to find inner peace and the true meaning of Christmas. All he sees is massive materialism and consumerism all about him. In a desperate moment, while trying to direct a pageant, he cries out to his very distracted cast, “Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?’  It is at that moment of personal crisis that little Linus slowly shuffles to the center of the stage with his famous blanket in tow. He calls for a spotlight and then proceeds to quote a portion of the Gospel of Luke chapter 2 from memory.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.”

Linus then walks slowly back over to Charlie Brown and gently says, “That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” And, indeed, he was dead right! In this simple, short and very inexpensive program, the true meaning of Christ’s first coming was clearly laid out. And it did so by using only the words of Scripture no less. Christmas is about tidings of great joy! And the source of that joy is the Savior who arrived in Bethlehem but who would one day purchase man’s redemption through His sacrifice on a cross.

There are many wonderful shows and films at this most wonderful time of the year. They inspire and entertain. They make us laugh and they make us cry. And they help get us in the mood for the holidays. But be sure this year to also make the true point  of the season the real focal point of the season as did Linus over 50 years ago. And make sure to publicly give “Glory to God in the highest” and thereby convey to all you meet the true significance of the blessed holiday they may already enjoy.

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Bill Breckenridge