If you’ll recall from our last column, we are still in the Christmas season. In fact, we continue celebrating Christmas until January 10, the Baptism of the Lord. With that in mind, let me share with you another Christmas thought.
I am no better than anyone else at shutting out the pre-Christmas, consumer-driven noise that occurs each year leading up to December 25. We are inundated with it, and with as much time as we spend on our computers and phones, and the incessant ads with which we are pummeled, it is nearly impossible to avoid it all. I enjoy the music, as it evokes memories of Christmas as a child in a home filled with music. I have been known to shed a tear or two when I watch “White Christmas” and see all those soldiers honoring their former commander as Bing Crosby sings about following the old man wherever he wants to go.
Of all that music and those movies, my favorite one of all is A Charlie Brown Christmas. I remember watching this short film when it aired for the first time in 1965. I was in the second grade at St. Johns school in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the time. My friend Jon Nawrocki and I were Peanut’s fans, ordering all the Charlie Brown books from the Arrow Book Club, then sharing them with each other and laughing at all their adventures. When we found out Charlie Brown would be on TV, we were ecstatic.
Like so many others, I have watched A Charlie Brown Christmas many times since that original broadcast. I purchased a CD of the soundtrack some time ago and have listened to The Vince Guaraldi Trio play those unforgettable songs over and over.
The animation in the film seems absolutely archaic today. No computer generated imagery or three dimensional characters. The dialog is not terribly complex, and the story moves along with the actions and words of a group of children.
The climax of the cartoon is when Charlie Brown laments that nobody can tell him the real meaning of Christmas. Linus pipes up and offers the only explanation there is, quoting from the Gospel of St. Luke.
The words of Luke are powerful, and each time we hear them our hearts soar! “And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Lk 2: 13-14)
While those words are powerful, what makes them that way in the midst of a cartoon about a small group of children navigating the complexities of commercialism in opposition to the Gospel?
That’s right. Silence. Linus responds to Charlie Brown’s plea for help and walks to the center of the stage. No music or dialog, just Linus saying “Lights, please” to focus the attention on what he is about to say. He tells us the true meaning of Christmas using the words of St. Luke, then silence again as he walks back to Charlie Brown and tells him “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
It’s the silence that frames that wonderful story that makes it so powerful. It sets it off, telling the viewer that what he is about to hear is very, very important. It seems to me that that is an important lesson for all of us.
This time of year, much of the world has moved on from Christmas, and the noise is ramping up again. Let’s take our cues from Linus, framing the Gospel – the most important thing – with silence.
For the rest of this blessed season, and for the year ahead, may you know Him more fully through the love and grace he so richly bestows on us all.
As always, thanks for reading.