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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Christmas From Within*

Linus -- Frame grab from "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, December 8, 2009
as "A Charlie Brown Christmas is Still Touching Hearts"

Copyright © 2008 by Ralph Couey
Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year
--Vince Guaraldi, from "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

In 1965, an animated program debuted on CBS. It was a Christmas-themed show starring the characters of Charles Shulz’s wildly popular and generationally-defining comic strip “Peanuts.” The story was, on the surface, a familiar allegory about how the true spirit of Christmas had been hijacked by greed and materialism. The animation, while colorful, was relatively primitive, the soundtrack lacks the depth provided by modern technology.  And yet, 43 years later, the show continues to touch hearts and enlighten spirits. The obvious reason for its effect is the incipient air of greed that has inculcated itself in the season, an observation usually voiced while standing in line at Best Buy at Oh-Dark-Thirty on Black Friday.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is much more than a holiday cartoon.  It is a call to the conscience; a reminder that we must at some point in the head-long rush between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve stop, take a breath, and seriously consider the true motivation for the celebration: the birth of Jesus Christ.

We have somehow forgotten that the season is not about material gain. It is rather about hope, salvation, redemption, forgiveness, generosity, and love; the ideas that reflect not only Christmas, but the deepest needs inside us all, especially the search for meaning. The philosophy taught by Jesus gave us that sense of meaning; that regardless of our station or circumstances in life, we are valued – and loved.

In the story, Charlie Brown longs for a Christmas with meaning, instead of the glitz and gimme he sees. He agrees to direct the Christmas play, hoping to produce a meaningful experience for cast and audience. But instead, he watches in angst as his dreams are hijacked by those of shallow mind and vacant spirit.

At the climactic part of this drama, the everyman Charlie Brown, drowning in the insincerity of those around him, cries out in anguish, “Isn’t there anyone out there who can tell me what Christmas is all about?”

In the breathless silence that follows, Linus responds:

“ Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you. Lights, please.”

With that, the world’s smallest and arguably most famous philosopher and theologian, security blanket in hand, walks to the center of the stage and faces the empty auditorium. And in a voice that still resonates deep inside the hearts of millions, he speaks:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields,
keeping watch over their flocks 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 unto you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.
For unto you this day is born in the City of David,
a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you;
you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes
and 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;
good will toward men.’”

As the echoes of his words fade, Linus turns to his friend and in a voice soft with compassion and understanding, says:

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

We need that moment.

We need that reminder that we could have a mansion full of material goods and still feel empty inside. It is, after all, love that fulfills, not video games, or big-screen televisions, jewelry, or cashmere socks. Technology breaks or becomes obsolete. Clothes wear out, jewelry becomes tarnished.

But the love of God, as expressed through the gift of the life of His son, Jesus, never diminishes, never breaks down, never wears thin or goes out of style. It is freely given; without limits or conditions.

And He will always be there waiting for us, no matter how long we’ve been away.

Know that you are loved.  Receive that love, and share it with others.

Make the decision to celebrate Christmas the way it was meant.

With your heart.
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