Drop Your Blankets!
Before you could buy a DVD or had access to video streaming services like Netflix, you checked your local TV guide to find out when all the Christmas movies and specials would be on. Since the networks only played Christmas movies and specials once a year, you made sure to remember the date, channel and time they were on. Growing up, one that my family always made sure to watch every year was A Charlie Brown Christmas. To this day, I can probably quote most of the lines.
This, now over 50-year-old Christmas special, features the Peanuts gang, especially Charlie Brown, trying to discover the true meaning of Christmas. Charlie Brown had volunteered to direct a Christmas program. Yet, as often is the case for Charlie Brown, things do not go well. His friends do not like his ideas or his choice in a Christmas tree.
In frustration Charlie Brown cries out, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" His friend Linus responds, "Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about." Then he heads to the stage where they had been rehearsing for the Christmas program.
When Linus reaches center stage, he gives a simple stage direction, "Lights, please," and begins to recite the words from Luke 2: 8-14.
"And there were in the same country, shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, an angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid, and the angel said unto them, 'Fear not, for behold I bring you 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. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manager.'
Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will towards men.'"
In a devotion by Jason Soroski entitled Drop The Blanket, Soroski writes about a moment that probably many never noticed. He writes about watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and being struck by the image of Linus dropping his blanket during his speech. Now I admit when I first read this I watched the scene several times before I caught it.
Here is a link to the video. Pay close attention to when Linus says, "And the angel said unto them, fear not..."
Did you see it?
Did you notice what happened when he recited the words of the angel-FEAR NOT?
Yes, he dropped his blanket.
Jason Soroski believes Charles Schultz did this intentionally, recalling that in the famous Peanuts comic strip, Linus never drops his blanket. He writes, "The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping to so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead. This simple cartoon image from 1965 continues to live on as an inspiration for us to seek true peace and true security in the one place it has always been and can always still be found."
As we enter into the Advent season, we will read and recall familiar stories of encounters with angels and unexpected announcements. Yet, because they are so familiar, it is easy to dismiss the ways ordinary people like Mary and Joseph had to be willing to let go of false securities and trust God completely.
Their journey was not easy and every step took a great deal of faith. They had to let go of their fears and insecurities. They had to be willing to leave behind the safe and familiar. They had to drop their own blankets in order to follow the path God had planned from them and the Christ child.
Imagine if they had not been willing to trust?
We tend to romanticize and sanitize their faith journeys.
But make no mistake, it was difficult.
It was difficult to know that there were people who were criticizing, judging, and gossiping about them.
It is difficult not to second-guess themselves for believing in the messages of the angels and not to second-guess God along the way.
We do not know the conversations they had with themselves and with each other.
We do not know the dark and doubtful moments they faced.
Yet, I believe the greatest thing they did was that they took steps forward trusting that God was with them.
Dear friends, all of us have taken and will take unwanted journeys.
When we find ourselves in situations that we did not expect or did not want, let us remember that the message of the angels to Mary, to Elizabeth, to Mary and Joseph, and to the shepherds is the same for us.
FEAR NOT...for I am with you.
God WILL walk with us.
Remember this, God works through every journey, every situation and is able to redeem it in order that our difficult journeys will never be the end of our story! We just need to trust and drop our blankets.