In the classic cartoon “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Charlie Brown writes a letter to Santa as his sister, Sally, dictates. “Please note the size and color of each item,” she says, “and send as many as possible. If it seems too complicated, make it easy on yourself: Just send money. How about tens and twenties?” Rolling his eyes in disgust, Charlie Brown laments the commercialism that has crept into Christmas.
That cartoon was made 45 years ago, before terms like “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” entered the popular vocabulary. Just imagine if it were written today. Charles Schulz certainly would have a good deal more material to work with.
It used to be that Christmas decorations appeared in stores after Thanksgiving; now, it’s not uncommon to see them popping up after Halloween. The business pages of newspapers turn their focus to the expectations of retailers, who count on the months of November and December to make their numbers for the year. Coupons fill mailboxes, discounts are trumpeted, and television advertising kicks up a few notches.
You begin to fear you might fall short of expectations if you can’t present your spouse with a brand new Lexus on Christmas morning.
This is the paradox of Christmas. The season calls for fellowship and thoughtful reflection, yet there are more claims on our time and resources than at any other time during the year.
It’s worth taking a moment to remember that at the center of this holiday is a miraculous event, something that happens to demand nothing from us. It’s a gift of enormous value, given freely and without strings attached. It’s a source of endless solace in the midst of this frenetic world.
Toward the end of the cartoon, Charlie Brown is ridiculed by the other kids for getting a small, unattractive Christmas tree. In frustration, he cries out: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
“Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about,” says Linus.
With that, he walks to the middle of a stage, and in a small but strong voice says these words from the Gospel of Luke: “ ‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men.’ ”
“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Rob Witwer is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and co-author of the book, “The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care).”