Long time readers may have noticed that I occasionally mention Charlie Brown in these pages. I do so because I love Peanuts. Charlie Brown remains in my opinion the hallmark of what makes a great comic strip. In fact, I have decorated my office with several choice items of Christmas memorabilia.
What makes Peanuts so special? I think that a lot could be said about why Peanuts is so appealing to so many people. For one thing it really does capture the innocence of youth – or, at least, the innocence that society formerly associated with youth; back in the days before children decided that being cool trumped learning to be an adult. The last I can recall, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and the gang never showed any real concern about being gunned down at school, buying drugs or engaging in any number of other activities that seem to be bogging down our youth. Charlie Brown was concerned about winning the baseball game (which he finally did), kicking the football (which I cannot recall him doing) and impressing (or, at least, meeting) the little red-haired girl. Wouldn’t it be great if those were the things that today’s kids were confronting?
Another thing that makes Peanuts special is its charm. There is something about Snoopy and the gang that just strikes a fancy in us. It is attractive. Millions of people read the comic daily, even though new strips stopped being produced shortly before Charles Schultz, the author, died several years ago. The new Peanuts movie has grossed $126 million dollars on the domestic market as of the writing of this post, and that amount does not include money generated from the sales of Peanuts related merchandise. When the movie is released on DVD, it will undoubtedly up its profits tremendously. Why are people going to see this movie? Largely because there is simply something likeable about the innocence and cleanliness of the Peanuts world.
Another large attraction about Peanuts is the Christian angle. For some, I know they will object that the Christian element that is always below the surface of the Peanuts strips (but which comes to the fore occasionally) should be attractive, but it is very definitely part of the attraction of the strip to many, many people. One place that the Peanuts commitment to a Christian worldview comes to the fore at this time of year is, of course, Linus’ quotation of Luke 2 in A Charlie Brown Christmas (which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year). For those of you sentimentalists out there, you can re-live Linus’ charming (there’s that word again) recitation of Luke 2:8-14 here: Linus quoting Luke 2.
To some, Linus quoting Luke is too much. When W.R. Castle Elementary School in Johnson County, Kentucky decided to have the students do A Charlie Brown Christmas as their school play, the school found the quoting of Luke 2:8-14 as being a little too much for the students, and acted to remove the offending verses from the play. Of course, this leaves one to wonder what they filled in for the missing portion of the story. Recall, Linus responds to Charlie Brown’s plaintive cry for someone to explain what Christmas is all about. Linus says, “I can tell you what Christmas is about, Charlie Brown,” then recites Luke 2. Without the Luke 2 passage, the entire story becomes meaningless. (Interestingly, when the children doing the play came to the lines from Luke, some members of the audience jumped in and recited the missing passages.)
Even President Obama seems to have missed this portion of A Charlie Brown Christmas. In the 50th Anniversary episode, President Obama proclaimed that the special teaches that “tiny trees just need a little love, and on this holiday we celebrate peace on earth, goodwill to all.” Well, that’s not quite what I get out of A Charlie Brown Christmas, but then I suppose it is possible that President Obama may have watched the W.R. Castle Elementary School version of the play which, by omitting Luke 2, could lead someone to conclude that the special is, in fact, about loving tiny trees.
This year, however, Jason Soroski over at “The Way I See It” published a piece about A Charlie Brown Christmas that made an observation that I had personally never noticed. The blogpost, entitled “Just Drop the Blanket”, points out that during the reading of the Luke 2 passage, Linus drops his blanket to complete the recitation. Linus? Dropping his beloved security blanket? Really? Yes, as the picture above, which is taken from the Christmas special, shows, Linus did indeed drop his blanket while telling Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas. Jason notes,
Looking at it now, it is pretty clear what Charles Schulz was saying through this, and it’s so simple it’s brilliant.
The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.
The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.
The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead.
The world of 2015 can be a scary place, and most of us find ourselves grasping to something temporal for security, whatever that thing may be. Essentially, 2015 is a world in which it is very difficult for us to “fear not”.
But in the midst of fear and insecurity, this simple cartoon image from 1965 continues to live on as an inspiration for us to seek true peace and true security in the one place it has always been and can always still be found.
I am not as convinced as Jason that Linus' dropping of his blanket was intentional given that Linus is shown to be holding the blanket again near the end of the recitation (but then is also shown picking up the blanket when he completes the passage). But regardless of intent, the meaning that Jason derived from the gesture is true. Jesus came to take our burdens from us. With Christmas, we need fear nothing because the worse that anyone can do is kill us. What they cannot do is take away our eternal salvation that is brought to us through the gift of God in the manger.
With Christ's coming in the flesh, we don’t need a security blanket. We just need and cling to God. And that is another message of A Charlie Brown Christmas that is just below the surface.