Sermon; Christmas Eve; 11 pm
How many of you enjoy holiday/Christmas movies or specials? I know there are people out there who live for the Hallmark Christmas Movie season. I'm not one of them. But I do have two favorite Christmas shows: A Charlie Brown Christmas and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original animated version with Boris Karloff). As far as I know or remember, they have always been my two favorite shows; and when we get home tonight after service, Joelene and I will (probably) watch the Grinch because that's what one does on Christmas Eve.
The question you might ask is, “Why are those your two favorite shows?”
If I were to boil it down to the basics, it's because these two shows fully understand Christmas. In Charlie Brown you have Snoopy entering a lights and display contest to “discover the true meaning of Christmas and win money, money, money!” There's the rehearsal and prep for the Christmas play when Charlie Brown tells Frida that Pigpen's dirt is the soil of some great past civilization. Lucy confides that Christmas is a commercial racket run by a big eastern syndicate. Charlie Brown gets sent out to find a giant, aluminum Christmas tree (preferably pink) for the play because even he can't get that wrong.
But it's Charlie Brown's lament, “Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” that sparks Linus' famous recitation of tonight's gospel: “In that region there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night . . . for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior . . . And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
In the Grinch, he has put up with the Whos celebrating Christmas for 53 years and decides he must stop Christmas from coming. So he makes himself a Santy Claus hat and a Santy Claus suit, and fits his dog Max with a reindeer horn. And while all the Whos down in Whoville were asleep in their beds, the Grinch snuck into town and stole all the gifts and trees and roast beast, a feast he couldn't stand in the least.
Then, at the top of Mount Crumpit, he waited for the sounds of all the Whos crying, “Boo hoo.” But the noise he heard wasn't sad. The noise he heard sounded glad. For every Who down in Whoville, the tall and small, began to sing.
It was then he realized that he hadn't stopped Christmas from coming. It came. It came without ribbons, tags, packages, boxes, or bags. He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming. It came just the same.
These two shows understand Christmas. In Charlie Brown there is an overt understanding that Christmas is all about the birth of Christ. In the Grinch the message isn't overtly Christian, but it does show that the light of love is stronger than the darkness and more important than material goods.
Ultimately these two shows and the gospel are about proclamation. Linus proclaims what Christmas is all about as he recites from the Gospel of Luke on the school stage. The Peanuts gang all proclaim the Christmas message as they sing, “Hark! the herald angels sing” at the end of the show. The Grinch proclaims the message of love and selfless giving as he both rides back into town with all the presents he originally stole and he himself cut the roast beast. Luke's gospel proclaims the Incarnation with the angel's announcement to the shepherds, a multitude of the heavenly host that praises God, the shepherds announcement of what had been told them, and their own words glorifying God as they returned to their fields.
Like with the Resurrection, the Incarnation is meant to be shared.
In addition to the message of the birth of Christ, light overcoming darkness, and a mandate to share the story, there is also a theme of hope that runs through these two shows and the gospel. Charlie Brown shows hope by choosing a small, dilapidated little tree that eventually receives care and love. The Grinch shows hope by gaining an understanding of Christmas and having his heart grow 3-times that day. We see hope in the birth of Mary's firstborn son.
The birth of a child is both scary and hopeful. New parents fear about whether or not they are prepared and whether or not they will get it right. They are fearful about whether or not they can provide and care for this new human. But there is also a great amount of hope. We may hope they grow up to be an astronaut, a world-renowned scientist, or a sports star, but I think new parents mainly hope that their child will grow to be a good person.
These past two years have been rough. I won't count the ways how that's been so because we all know what it's been like. What Christmas offers us in the midst of these dark days is hope: the hope of a light in the darkness, the hope that the darkness will not overcome the light, the hope of new life, the hope of God with us.
This year may we be like Linus and proclaim what Christmas is all about.
This year may we be like Charlie Brown in offering hope to the neglected.
This year may we be like the Whos in singing of the light while in the dark.
This year may we be like the Grinch and be overcome with love.
This year may we be like the angels and shepherds who make known the Good News of Jesus Christ.
This year may we never lose the hope of love, light, and life that Christmas brings.