I heard a homily the other day about the holiday TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, so the observations I share are not completely my own, as much as I’d like to take credit for them. The visiting priest who spoke rendered our masked, socially-distanced congregation silent as he discussed the beloved cartoon that’s been aired on prime time television for more than 50 years.
“Fear not!” — and the priest gestured as if he dropped a blue towel, re-enacting the scene where Linus responds to Charlie Brown’s request for someone to “tell [him] what Christmas is all about!”
As a longtime fan of the show, my mind (that loves all things literary) leapt at the symbolism of Linus parting – for the first time ever – with his security blanket.
In the show, it is just as Linus recounts the angels’ message, “Fear not! For behold I bring you tidings of great joy,” that he drops his blanket — the same one he’d refused to give up earlier, even at Lucy’s taunting and name-calling. Emboldened by the greatness of what he’s saying, the little boy continues under the glare of the spotlight to tell the rest of the Christmas story.
“How did you miss symbolism that great?” I chided myself. But then the Holy Spirit spoke even louder, and far more gently, “What security blanket do you need to throw down?”
And since such a question requires more contemplation than my kids, wriggling beside me on the pew, would allow at the moment, I tuned into the rest of the homily.
I learned that Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, was a devout Christian who only agreed to make the CBS special if he could include the birth of Jesus. Apparently the station’s executives tried to change his mind, but he insisted. And for the past five decades, the millions of people who have watched A Charlie Brown Christmas have heard the story of Jesus’ birth.
Now, as the swirl of holiday festivities are upon us, I keep returning again and again to Linus’ blue blanket. I keep pondering the way this humble character echoed the heavenly host’s “Fear not!”; how these two powerful words essentially sum up the meaning of Christ coming to Earth; how they essentially sum up the meaning of Christmas.
And even though it’s embarrassing to share all the countless security blankets I need to part with, I will mention a couple – my ego, my anger, and my ugly unforgiveness. I wish I had Linus’ strength to throw them down, but I don’t. So I’ll pray that Baby Jesus will come to me this Christmas in a new, special way. And maybe – just maybe – I’ll find the strength to lay my many blue “blankies” in his manger.
Lord, help us to tolerate and conquer our fears: Pope Francis’ prayer