He has a round head and a knobby nose, his dog wins more contests than he ever will, and even his friends all call him a loser. He talks through a megaphone but no one listens to him. And when he chooses a “sincere” Christmas tree, everybody laughs.
I know I’m not eccentric or even unusual in naming A Charlie Brown Christmas as my all-time favorite televised holiday special. I was probably six or seven when I saw it for the first time. Having followed the Sunday Peanuts strip since before I could read, the characters felt to me like old friends. Watching the annual telecast became one of my most-anticipated Christmas rituals.
Snoopy was hilarious, Lucy was exasperating and Linus both wise and kind. But Charlie Brown’s inept sincerity was painful to watch. He made me weep. I so wanted him to be taken seriously. Even at that young age I knew the misery of being misunderstood and the frustration of failure. If you’d asked me, I’d have told you my favorite superhero was Underdog…really.
I got chills the first time Linus stood in the spotlight and spoke the words of Luke 2 into the empty auditorium. And when the Peanuts started to sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” after beautifying Charlie Brown’s tree, I burst into tears.
As a child, it was the loving gesture of decorating his tree, transforming it, that moved me. As an adult, what speaks to me is the larger act of restoration: a community restoring a brother, reviving a broken life. I understand now that the tree is a metaphor for the boy himself, awkward, unwanted, unappreciated. When the unlovely is made lovely, Charlie is affirmed.
Jesus came to seek and save the unlovely (that’s all of us). And He has made us ministers of reconciliation. We are transformed so that we can take part in His ongoing work of transformation. Is there a Charlie Brown in your life? Is there a tiny tree that can be restored and made lovely this Christmas?