Charlie Brown’s search for the true meaning of Christmas leads him in many directions. What he’s looking for is something that will make him happy, but it goes beyond happiness. Charlie Brown is looking for joy and contentment, something that will not just fill his Christmas but his entire life. No one that Charlie Brown encounters seems happier than his dog Snoopy. Snoopy shows Charlie Brown, and all of us, what many people do during the Christmas season to be happy.
The first thing Snoopy does is decorate his doghouse. Many people decorate their homes during the holidays to try and get that Christmas spirit. We will set up trees, put candles in the windows and struggle to untangle lights all in an effort to make ourselves and others happy. Not only is Snoopy decorating his house for himself, he is doing it to win a prize. He wants the attention and approval of others. I wonder how many people decorate their homes because they really enjoy decorating or because they are seeking the approval of their neighbors.
My first year in Lewisburg I quickly realized that everyone in my neighborhood decorated their homes for Christmas. Since the parsonage sat on the corner at the entrance to the development, I didn’t feel like I had much choice- I had to decorate. I put candles in all the windows (complete with extension cords and timers), strung icicle lights across the porch and put lights on all the shrubs because I didn’t want people to think I was a Grinch – after all, I was the pastor. I didn’t enjoy doing it each year because the perfectionist in me didn’t like how the lights looked because they were never just right, but I did it because I didn’t want others to think less of me. I did for their approval and acceptance.
So decorating doesn’t always make us happy and decorations don’t stay up forever, at some point we have to take them down, pack them away and then feel a little dark and empty when it’s all gone. The happiness that all the tinsel and glitter brings doesn’t last, so once Snoopy’s doghouse is decorated, he turns to something else to be happy, dining.
Now this is going to hit close to home for many of us, but let’s be honest, we all turn to food this time of year to make us happy. That’s why we make and eat so many Christmas Cookies! For many families there are certain foods we only make this time of year and when eat them, they make us happy. In my family it is bara brith and kuchen – 2 breads made by my Grandmothers that now my Mom makes, and then there is peppermint stick ice cream with homemade hot fudge sauce. This week for a clergy luncheon Pete served this and all I had to do was take one spoonful and I was happy because it tasted like Christmas. But too much of this happiness will not help us be content or happy once January rolls around and we step on the scale and realize we gained 10 pounds. All our happiness is gone then and we will feel miserable and frustrated with ourselves and struggle to take off all those cookies.
Food doesn’t satisfy Snoopy either and so he turns to one final means of finding happiness – dancing. We also turn to entertainment during this season to find happiness. Some people are already in line to get into the new Star Wars movie but the force won’t stay with them for long. Eventually there will have to be another movie, another concert, another game, another “dance” in order to stay happy. The entertainment of the world doesn’t bring lasting happiness so the search goes on.
Decorating, Dining and Dancing are three things which many people turn to in order to be happy in this season, but they just don’t last which is why January is often a dark and depressing month. Now please don’t leave today and say that Andy said we shouldn’t decorate our homes, bake cookies or attend concerts, movies and parties, I am not saying that at all. What I am saying is that if we look to these things or anything in this world to bring us lasting joy – we will be let down. Decorations, dining and dancing and the happiness they bring don’t last. The pleasures they provide are temporary and tied into what’s happening around us and they don’t bring abiding joy.
Snoopy offers Charlie Brown happiness, but Charlie Brown is looking for something more and something that will last, something that will endure and actually help him when times get tough. What Charlie Brown needs and what we need, is joy.
Rejoice. It is a command given to us over and over again in the Bible and yes it is a command. Look at 1 Thessalonians. 5:16. Rejoice Always. God is commanding us to be joyful – it’s not a suggestion. It doesn’t read try joy, or might I suggest you be joyful – it says, Rejoice – Be Joyful. Because it is a command, joy must be possible for us at all times because God is not going to tell us to do something that can’t be done. Certainly God is not going command us over 300 times to be joyful if joy were not a possibility for us. If joy is possible at all times then it cannot be tied to what is happening around us, it must come from someplace else.
1 Thessalonians drives home the point that this rejoicing is a command and possible in all circumstances by saying Rejoice Always, not just when things are going well, not just when we are getting our own way, but always. If we are only joyful when things are going well, then it’s not real joy – it’s just being happy. Snoopy was happy when he won the contest for his doghouse but then he was not so happy when the music stopped and he had to stop dancing. Happiness is tied to our circumstances but joy is an attitude of the heart which endures and stays with us and within us even when what is happening around us may be difficult. James 1:2-3 says, consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Joy is what carries us through those tough times because joy is the understanding, conviction and certainty that God is in control and that God is with us.
Psalm 5 shows us how we can find this kind of joy. Psalm 5:11-12. Let all who take refuge in God rejoice. So what does it mean to take refuge in God so that we can find this joy? Taking refuge in God means that we follow Jesus and abide or remain in him. Jesus said, I am the vine and you are the branch, remain in me and I will remain in you. When we remain in Jesus, when we give ourselves to him and strive to walk with him each and every day we are taking refuge in God and the joy will come. Because joy is one of the fruits of God’s spirit we know it will develop and remain in us as we allow the Spirit of God to dwell in us. So we experience joy not by turning to the things of this world, or even turning to ourselves but in daily turning to God to receive God’s love.
For many of us, this is where the problem comes; it is hard for us to trust that God really loves us. It is hard for us to place our lives fully in God’s hands when we keep wondering how God can love a sinner like me. We can see God’s love for others. We can see God reaching out and caring for those around us, but many of us still question whether or not God can love me with all my doubts and problems and sin. I’m not sure what we can do to increase our understanding of God’s love for us because the word of God can’t be any clearer. God says to us over and over again how much he loves us so I’m not sure we can do anything to make that clearer, maybe what we need is to just hear that message more often.
There was little girl who every month went out on date with Daddy. One month their date was to go out for breakfast. After they ordered their meal, the Father started to tell his little girl how special she was and how much love and joy she had brought into his life and how proud he was of her and how much he loved her. When their food came, the father picked up his fork and started to eat, but the little girl reached over and touched her Dad’s hand and said, longer Daddy, longer. So he put his fork down and kept telling her how special she was and how talented she was and how much she and her Mommy loved her. He again picked up his fork to start eating when the little girl reached out her hand a second time and said, longer Daddy, longer. So again this father put down his fork and told his daughter how much he loved her. And every time he went to pick up his fork the little girl said, longer Daddy, longer. They didn’t eat much that day, but the little girl got what she needed. She knew how much her Daddy loved her.
There are times when we need to say to God, longer Daddy longer and then sit and listen to God say over and over again how much he loves us. From the beginning to the end of the Bible we hear the story of God’s love for us and how God reaches out to us again and again to say, I love you. When the little girl heard her Daddy talk about how much he loved her, she knew she could trust him and she grew to trust him more. The more we hear about God’s love for us, the more we will be able to trust God and find refuge in God which helps us experience the joy God has to offer.
God’s unconditional love was also seen on the night of Jesus’ birth. The first people who heard about the birth of Jesus were a group of shepherds on the hillsides of Bethlehem. The angel told them, Fear not for behold I bring you good news of great joy. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord. Now shepherds were not the most respected group of people. They weren’t the most religious, faithful, or trustworthy but they were the first to hear this good news of great joy. And the angels didn’t tell them they had to clean up their act before they could go and find the babe lying in a manger. This means that we can all come to God just the way we are. God doesn’t require us to change before He will love us, He loves us first and then allows His love to change us and fill us with joy.
God’s love for us is unconditional which means that we can rejoice always or as the Psalmist says it, we can ever sing for joy. Because of God’s love for us we can experience joy at all times and in all places. God’s love doesn’t depend on things going well or on us doing well, it is always available which means joy can be experienced in all circumstances. Even when we are in trouble and in danger, God is there to bring us joy, look at Psalm 5:11b. Spread your protection over them that those who love your name may rejoice in you. God doesn’t keep us from experiencing pain in lives – we will all go through hardships and suffering, but when we do, God’s protection, or presence, is there so that even during those times we can experience joy. The joy in these moments comes from knowing that God is with us and that his strength and power and the power of his love will see us through.
So what’s holding you back from experience the joy God has to offer? What’s keeping you from being content and causing you to keep searching for something to make you happy? During this hectic season of the year, don’t look for joy in decorations, dining and dancing, don’t look for joy in any of the things of this world, look for it in God’s unconditional love and take refuge in him.
A Charlie Brown Christmas ~ Be Content
Snoopy found happiness in decorating, dining and dancing. Where do you look for happiness during the Christmas season? What things destroy this happiness?
1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16
God commands us to rejoice which means joy is not based in our circumstances or situations. Where can you find joy?
2. Read Psalm 5
- What does it mean for you to take “refuge” in God?
- In what areas of life do you need to follow Jesus more closely?
- Jesus said he is the vine and we are the branches. How can you stay connected to Jesus this week and draw your life from him?
3. Joy also comes in knowing that we are unconditionally loved by God. Read the following Scriptures that talk about God’s love for us.
- Isaiah 49:15-16
- Isaiah 54:10,
- Jeremiah 31:3-6
- Zephaniah 3:16-17
- John 3:16-17
- Romans 5:1-8
- Romans 8:28-30
4. In what areas of your life do you need God’s love and protection to spread over you? Ask God for that help today.
5. Joy is also found in giving ourselves away. What act of service or sacrificial gift can you make during this season?
- Helping with the Christmas Dinner
- Helping those in need through the Christmas Offering
- Supporting Toys for Tots or another gift giving program