Charlie Brown and the Incarnation

Amidst the busyness of reading week and preparing for exams here at Duke Divinity School, I sat down this evening to watch the 50th anniversary special of A Charlie Brown Christmas. This hallowed tradition of Americana is engrained in all of our hearts and minds as something truly special for the Advent and Christmas season. It just gets you in the mood to celebrate the season.

The most iconic scene of the special is when Linus stands to give his recitation of the angelic encounter in Luke 2. For those of you who may not remember, Linus stands in the center of the stage, politely asks for the spotlight, and begins,

"And there were in the same county 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 you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto 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 Heavenly host, praising God, and saying "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace goodwill towards men."

Linus concludes his story with, "That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown." But this year, I noticed something I hadn't noticed in years past. When Linus gets to the portion of the account where he says, "Fear not" he lets go of his iconic safety blanket. Whether this was intentional or not, I have no idea. But it says something deeply true about the incarnation.

The incarnation of our Lord is a reminder that we can let go of our earthly security blankets and safety nets for an encounter with the Divine. We find ourselves safe in the arms of redeeming grace, and we find ourselves lost in the wonder of the season. The reality is our world could use some redeeming right about now, and if we let go of the things that create a false sense of safety we too might hear the words of the angelic host saying, "Fear not, the Christ-child is in your midst."

It's part of trusting in the slow, quiet work of God. The pivotal point in human history, the incarnation came at a time much like our own. The political unrest and turmoil across the known world gave the opportunity for God to do God's best work. May we be courageous enough to do good work as well, may we be full of enough hope to abandon the safety of everything we've ever known for the kingdom God has promised us.

So the next time you're watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, look for Linus letting go of the safety blanket. May it be for you a reminder to fear not! For the Messiah just might show up. Happy Advent.