And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock 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 so afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you 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 the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.
(Luke 2:8 – 14)
I have watched the Charlie Brown Christmas Special fifty or more times. In fact, we watched it during our church’s Christmas decorating gathering a few weeks ago. I thought I knew it pretty well. Then, last week, Michael Frost, an author/blogger and a leading voice in the Missional Church movement mentioned something in his twitter post that I had never noticed before. I doubt he was the first to notice it but now I have heard it mentioned two or three times since then and never had heard anyone talk about this before. And if I did hear it I don’t remember, so it couldn’t have made too much of an impression on me.
During the scene where Linus begins to recite the Christmas story as recorded in Luke, Linus does something very profound…He drops his security blanket! Check out the picture above. Not only does he drop the blanket that he is so closely associated with but he drops it when he quotes the words of the angel: “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” .
Think about the various characters in the Charlie Brown cartoon: When you think of Pig Pen you think of the cloud of dust surrounding him. When you think of Schroeder you think of the piano he loves to play. When you think of Charlie Brown you think of his scrawny Christmas tree. And when you think of Linus you think of his security blanket. He doesn’t go anywhere without it. He can’t function without it. It defines his life and gives him a sense of control and meaning. But when he recites the Scripture he is not just saying it from his head. It is not just a matter of memorizing words. There is something much deeper and powerful going on here. Scripture is transforming him. Linus feels the Scripture and it owns him in such a way that he can actually do something that he is so reluctant to do; He drops his blanket. Not because the Bible says: “Thou Shall Not Have A Blanket For Security” but because the Scripture hits him in a deep and personal way. He allows the Scripture to come alive in his life and challenge him at his weakest point. He finds the ability to trust God through his fears and in a moment of trust he steps into the sandals of the Shepherds and takes the words of the angel to heart: “Fear not.”
Now, I must admit, I might be reading a bit too much into that one gesture. And I may be trying to go too intense with my analysis of a cartoon character. Linus, after all, is not real. He is not really doing any of that! But Charles Schultz, the creator of the Charlie Brown series is sending a subtle but multi layered and loaded message, (I say subtle because its taken me over 50 years to realize it!): “Fear not” because God is in control; Fear not because there is “Good News” to be heard; “Fear Not” and let go of that blanket and trust the goodness and life of God.
Whatever you face this Christmas season, may you, along with the shepherds and Linus, take to heart the command of the angel, “Fear Not.” Notice, it is not a request but a command. You too can drop those security blankets you are carrying and realize that they are just a weak, insufficient replacement for the One who will truly give you hope, peace and security. Whatever challenge you have, whatever obstacle that is in your path, whatever mountain you need to climb…”Fear Not.” There is One whose birth is good news for all people; He is the savior and His name is Jesus who is Christ the Lord. “Fear Not”, God is in control and he has good news for you. When we abandoned our fears and let go of our blankets, then God can work in our lives in such a way that Scripture comes alive and we hear it and receive it with great joy.
As you celebrate this Christmas and journey into the New Year, “Fear Not”, for God has good news for us.
Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. Fear Not.
What do you think? How does it make you feel?