The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
December 25, 2019—Year A
Readings: Is 9:1-6 / Ps 96 / Ti 2:11-14 / Lk 2:1-14
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
I’m sure most of you have seen “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Charlie Brown is being typical Charlie Brown and is stressing out over the over-commercialization of Christmas. He knows that something about this is not quite right, but he’s not sure why. Throughout the show, he’s looking for the true meaning of Christmas.
This comes to a climax when they need a Christmas tree for their school pageant. Charlie Brown goes out to find one, and he’s taken by a scrawny, little Christmas tree. He buys it and takes it in, but his classmates do not share his enthusiasm for this little tree. They mock him, make fun of him, and he freaks out, asking what Christmas is all about. Trusty Linus steps up and actually recites part of the gospel that we’ve heard today. In it, he shares the meaning of Christmas. Then, of course, everyone has a change of heart, they decorate the little tree, and everything is wonderful.
As I was driving home the other day, I heard a story on the radio about “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” It told me something I didn’t know. Charles Schultz had five children and, every year at Christmas, he would read to them Hans Christian Andersen’s, “The Fir Tree.” That story was the inspiration for the little tree in the television show.
The story is about a little fir tree that grows up in a forest surrounded by great big fir trees. The little tree is unhappy about his small size. In the story, a rabbit is actually able to jump over this little tree. He is mortified. He feels that the big trees must be able to see a wonderful world, and he can’t wait until he is tall and can see everything.
Years go by and he starts to get a little bit bigger. You would think he would start to get a little happier, but throughout his whole existence, no matter what surrounds him, he is always looking for something else.
He sees some of the big trees being cut down, and their limbs cut off, and he wonders what is going on. The birds explain that they are going to be made into ship masts. They’re going to be on great ships that sail the ocean. The little tree thinks that he would truly be happy if he could be on such ships and see the world instead of being stuck in the forest. This goes on until finally he is cut down for a Christmas tree and he thinks that now he will be truly happy. He is happy for one night, but then the Christmas tree is taken down, shoved in the attic, and eventually cut up and burned. At the end of the story, he realizes how good he had it all throughout his life. He laments not realizing this at the time.
I was struck by that lesson, because I think that is a good thing to keep in mind at Christmas. I remember as a kid being so excited about Christmas, and a little let down when it was all over. Throughout our personal lives and spiritual lives, we can sometimes spend too much time either living in the past or dreaming about the future. How many times have you been miserable because you just can’t forget the wrong that someone did to you? Or how many times are you so distracted throughout the day because you’re thinking about all the things you plan to do during the upcoming weekend? Well, that’s a problem. That’s one thing that everyone struggles with at some point.
The problem is, the only place we experience God is in the moment. God exists in the eternal now and that’s where we meet Him. That’s where we have the opportunity to appreciate the many gifts that we are surrounded by. That’s the place where we have the opportunity to reach out to someone in need. You see, grace comes to us in the now. Too often, that grace has a short shelf life because yesterday is gone and we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. It is only in the moment that we can put that gift of grace to work.
So as we approach the new year, where in our society we tend to make resolutions, I suggest this: learn from the past, plan for the future, but live in the now. Spend every day appreciating the gifts that God has given to us and sharing those gifts with the people around us.