Spirituality for Today – December 2009 – Volume 14, Issue 5

Who Will?

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

In early December of 1965, network executives at CBS were wringing their hands over the decision to retain the telling of the birth of Jesus at the conclusion of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The program that had its premier nationally on CBS on December 9, 1965 was the creation of Charles M. Schulz. His Christmas program included all of the main characters in his famous comic strip Peanuts. The theme was the search for the true meaning of Christmas. Charlie Brown, disgusted by the commercialism surrounding the holiday, determined to discover the authentic meaning of Christmas. Finally, frustrated by his pursuit, he cried out for someone to answer his question. Linus then relates to Charlie and to the television audience the Nativity from the Gospel of Luke. The executives feared that viewers would not stay tuned through the recitation by Linus of the birth of Christ. Charles Schulz rebelled against any attempt to remove the telling of the story of the birth of Jesus. Schulz declared, "If we don't tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?"

An illustration of Charlie Brown with a small Christmas tree

Explicit in this question is the very "Mission Statement" of the apostles. It was they who had to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the societies of the ancient world. It is we who must continue that proclamation to ours. Ironically, some people are reticent to share their beliefs, but there are many who are almost desperate to do so. The English writer William Hazlitt illustrates the point in this remembrance from a gathering of friends, "'There is only one person I can think of after this,' continued H____, but without mentioning a name that once put on a semblance of mortality: 'If Shakespeare was to come into the room, we should all rise up to meet him; but if that person was to come into it, we should all fall down and try to kiss the hem of his garment.' As a lady present seemed now to get uneasy at the turn the conversation had taken, we rose up to go." Great is the number of souls who desire to receive the happiness, comfort, hope, assurance, and all the other gifts contained in the true meaning and purpose of Christmas. Among the various celebratory seasons of the year, Christmas provides the most agreeable atmosphere for public rejoicing. From family gatherings to nondescript office parties, opportunities exist to introduce thoughtful comments about the birth of Christ. Few are the people who can comfortably and effectively stump for Christ, but we all are able to present ourselves as individuals who spiritually are aware of the momentous event being celebrated. Employing the very motion of our lives, we should seek to witness to the significance of Christmas in a faithful, natural, joyful, and, shall we say, merry way. If we don't do this, who will?

In quiet and truthful times, good people in conversation often lament over the moral decay emblematic of our culture. The times are topsy-turvy. One may be chary of wishing another a "Merry Christmas," but unashamedly may spew all forms of obscenity. The mass of misguided impulses that has formed recent societal trends continue to create chaos in the process of discerning right from wrong. Consequently, life becomes cheap. Those qualities of character that cement personal relationships and open individuals to true love are lacking. Not that these qualities no longer exist or have no force, but that they are occluded by misaligned notions of self-respect and self-worth. Contrastingly, the birth of Christ relates that from the very beginning the scene was set depicting the nature of the relationship between God and his people. The Word incarnate called all people, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, kings and shepherds to his side, to his saving grace. This inclusiveness marked the call as truly divine. Therefore, the only authentic and unassailable source of human dignity and worth comes through the consonance of the human and the divine will. Reflecting on God's love for us, we can internalize the power of that love in coping with our own frailties and honing our life-enhancing skills. Thus, we may give to our world the Christmas present of our best selves. Human dignity and rights, not based on human whim, but on God's love finds its proper foundation. If we do not do this, who will?

This "Christmas card" to you bears a rather serious tone. Perhaps, the urgency of telling the true meaning of Christmas by living it is so apparent that I feel that it ought to be underscored this year. Oh! If you were wondering how everything came out regarding that hard stand taken by Charles Schutz in keeping the Nativity in A Charlie Brown Christmas, you need not fret. Fifty percent of the television sets in the United States were tuned in to the program. A Charlie Brown Christmas garnered an Emmy and the Peabody Award. Since then, the show has become a Christmas classic. Thank you, Charles Schulz for your faith, your fortitude, and your genius. Should you be looking down on us this Christmas and are concerned, don't worry. Who will? We will!