The turning point in the now-classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” comes with Linus’ recitation of the Christmas story as found in Luke 2. Charlie Brown leaves the superficiality of the Christmas play rehearsal with his forlorn little tree. All it needs is a little love, he realizes. Gazing up at the stars, he recalls the words of good news and hope.
The crash from this “high” is foreshadowed when he sees Snoopy’s souped-up doghouse has won the Christmas decorating contest. He is shocked and dismayed, but determines not to let this commercialism ruin his Christmas. He removes a simple red ornament from the gaudy display and hangs it on his tiny tree. Immediately the branch sags to the ground. Charlie Brown cries out in anguish, “I killed it! It’s true; I can’t do anything right! Argh!” and runs into his house.
Moments later, Linus and the other Peanuts characters arrive. Linus wraps his beloved blanket around the base of the tree to support it, saying, “I never did think it was such a bad little tree.” Then with the magic of animation, the gang waves their arms in the air around Snoopy’s doghouse, removing all the gaudiness, then waves them around the little tree. When they step back, the tree is transformed into a beautiful sight. They begin humming a Christmas carol, which draws Charlie Brown back outside. When he sees the tree, he does a double-take, astonished. The gang cries out, “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!” before breaking into “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”
So what is Christmas all about? It’s about the saving, redeeming power of God coming to us enfleshed. It’s about community that repents, that seeks out the one they have ostracized, that puts its efforts to work to create beauty instead of seeking vainglory in its own performance, and blesses the one they had scorned. When Charlie Brown experiences that, then he gets it. Christmas happens when grace is incarnate in lives, in community, in the world. May you experience such grace, and may you make Christmas happen this year and each day.