December 24, 2015
First Christian Church
On December 9, 1965 something special happened.
On that day 50 years ago, CBS first broadcast The Charlie Brown Christmas Special. I’ve done some reading on the special and it was unique for a lot of reason. First off, is the soundtrack. Instead of some music more fitting of a cartoon, we get the smooth jazz sounds of Vince Girauldi. Also did you know that it caused the end of aluminum Christmas trees? When a remark is made panning the trees, sales dipped. By 1967, aluminum trees were no longer sold.
But the thing that is the most memorable part of the special is when Linus VanPelt recites part of the birth story of Jesus. It was unusual for such an open display of faith to be seen on television.
But recently, I learned something about Linus or I should maybe Charles Schulz that takes place during that memorable speech.
Linus is known for being the younger brother of Lucy VanPelt and for being rather smart. But he is known for something else ever moreso: his security blanket. Linus carries his blanket everywhere, he is never without it.
But if we remember Linus on stage sharing the story of the shepherds, we weren’t watching his blanket. Because if we were, we would notice midway through his speech, he let’s go of this blanket. To be exact, he lets go of the blanket when he comes to the words, “Fear not.”
To Linus that blanket is what keeps him safe in the world. And yet, at this crucial moment he gives it up.
The shepherds in Luke’s telling of the Nativity had every reason to be scared. Here they are, out on this evening to take care of their sheep. It’s an evening like any other evening they have had to work. And then out of nowhere, this man appears to them. And we learn this angel tells the shepherds to “fear not.”
Those had to be the most silliest words ever uttered in Scripture. What are you supposed to do when someone just shows up out of thin air!
There is something interesting about the Christmas Stories. We like to think they are filled with joy, but they are actually filled with fear. Notice the many times angel had to say fear not. Gabriel said this to Mary and Zechariah as they were being told the good news of children. The shepherds were afraid. Even in the story of the Three Kings, we see that Herod is afraid of a 2 year old who was considered a king.
Fear is something that is sewed into the human heart. We deal daily with fear. This past year has seen a number of experiences that have made us scared. The terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernedino made us wonder if something could happen to us. It also made us suspicous of refugees from Syria, worried that there could be terrorists among them. While there is some need for caution, many people over-reacted with some governors turning away families escaping war. Others, stoked by certain people, have become fearful of Muslims and that fear has produce horrible acts such as the torching of a coffee shop owned by a Somaili refugee in Grand Forks. We are fearful of those who happen to think differently than us. Democrats are afraid of Republicans and Republicans are afraid of Democrats.
Some fears are not fears based on people, but on situations. Some fear if they can pay the rent this month or put food on the table. Some fear losing their jobs.
So it isn’t odd that the angel said “fear not.” It is all around us. It has us all in its grip.
The coming of Jesus is a reminder that God came in human form to defeat death and fear. By rising from the dead, Jesus conquered the fear of death. Jesus dying for others, deals with our fear of being insignificant. Jesus living his life, not having a place to lay his head is the one that said the God that knows the numbers of hair on your head cares for you.
I will end with a story I recently ready. On Sunday June 18,1944 D. Martyn Lloyd Jones ascended the pulpit like he did every Sunday in London. But this was in the middle of World War II where the German Luftwaffe rained down hell from the sky. On that Sunday, Lloyd-Jones began to pray even though you could hear the whine of planes ahead. He continued to pray the pastoral prayer. He only paused when the whine of the planes were too loud.
That was when a bomb hit the church. Debris rained down on the congregation. There was a an air of panic among them. What would the pastor do?
With the sirens blaring, Lloyd-Jones continued to pray. When he was done, he told the congregation if they would like to move to the gallery for safety, they were welcome to do so. A deacon dusted off the pulpit and then sat down. The good pastor then went into his sermon.
In the face of death, where fear would make sense, he stood. He might have been scared, but I believe he knew there was a power that would care for him not matter what happened.
I like to think that Linus dropped his blanket because at the moment, he had no fear. The question for us is can we? Can we drop the blankets of fear that we carry with us or use to protect us from life? Jesus is born. We will feel fear, of course, but because of the birth of a baby centuries ago, we need not fear for God is with us.
Drop the blanket. Thanks be to God. Merry Christmas.