There's this moment in my favorite Christmas special when Charlie Brown desperately cries out for anyone who knows what Christmas is all about. His best friend Linus gently replies, "Sure, Charlie Brown. I know what Christmas is all about." And then Linus, who earlier in the special was terrified by the prospect of having to memorize lines for their Christmas play, quotes Luke 2:8-14.
I cannot describe how much I love that moment. I have written about it so many times. But Linus standing on that stage is quiet, beautiful, full of grace, humble, and everything else you would want in the telling of the Christmas story. Linus is full of hope. The security blanket that he clutches at all times lies on the ground beside him. As the last echoes of Luke's passage die out, Linus walks over to his friend and says, "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
I read about the birth of Jesus in Luke and I am struck about how much we could put in place of the that which Christmas is all about. Love is what Christmas is all about. Hope is what Christmas is all about. Redemption is what Christmas is all about. Peace is what Christmas is all about. Sacrifice is what Christmas is all about. Joy is what Christmas is all about. Good news is what Christmas is all about. The value of those society finds valueless is what Christmas is all about.
Ultimately, the God who gives us those beautiful things is what Christmas is all about. I think about that fragile child in the manger. He was so vulnerable, so dependent on the mother who had just birthed him. And it's staggering to think that God chose to be in that place. That God loves us so much that God would embrace our experience so fully.
I think about Mary and Joseph and all of the hope and wonder and utter terror they experienced that night. I think about the manger; the straw and hay, smelling of animals. I think of the shepherds, unimportant nobodies, finding themselves at the epicenter of this moment. I try to imagine the baby's cry. I imagine his parents watching him sleep; his tiny chest rising and falling. I imagine they prayed like they've never prayed before because that is what I did when my two boys were born.
It is all very earthy and real. There is dirt and stress and uncertainty in it all. There is joy. There is worry. And again, God chose to dive fully into all of this. I can scarcely believe it. Yet God loves us so much. God is not willing to let us be on our own. God is with us. That is what Christmas is all about. Let us celebrate it tomorrow and always.