50 years ago Charles Schultz and Bill Melendez teamed up to give us the classic story of Charlie Brown’s search for the true meaning of Christmas. Beyond the iconic images of doghouses and Charlie Brown trees and the familiar music by Vince Guarlidi, what makes this story so powerful is that it speaks to all of us. How many of us, during the holiday season, will say, I know I should be happy, but I’m not. I don’t feel what I’m supposed to feel. I feel let down. We all feel let down at times. We think we should be feeling something different or something more during the Christmas season and when we don’t, we search to find it.
In so many ways the season of Advent is a season of searching. We search for the right gift. We search for the perfect tree and the best sales. We search for that old box of ornaments we put away for safe keeping. We search for a new recipe for cookies or a new theme for the Christmas party. We will search for ways to make our homes and dinner tables look like what we find on pintrest and see on facebook and after hours of searching and work in all of these areas, we will often end up feeling empty and unfulfilled. The gifts we want are sold out, the tree isn’t straight, the cookies get burned and our homes never look like the pictures we see on line. In so many ways Charlie Brown’s Christmas looks just like ours. But the real power of this story is that it is not just the story of our holidays, it is the story of life.
Many of us go through life thinking we should be feeling something more and experiencing something different and even though so many things in our lives are so good and we know we should be happy, we aren’t, we feel let down and so the search begins. So whether it is to find meaning in Christmas or in life, we need to make this Advent about searching, but the key is to know what we are searching for and where to look. Advent is not about searching for the perfect gift or tree, it’s not even about searching for the birth of a Savior because that took place more than 2000 years ago in the town of Bethlehem. Advent is a time to search for the presence of God in our lives and the place to look isn’t in the world but in the God who created us and the Savior who came to be with us.
About 1,000 years before the birth of Jesus there was another man who could relate to Charlie Brown’s feeling of un-fulfillment. After defeating 450 false prophets in a spectacular display of God’s power and might, this prophet ran away and sat alone in a cave feeling rejected and alone. From the darkness of the cave I can just hear him say, I know I should be happy, but I am not. I don’t feel what I’m supposed to feel. I feel let down. After one of the biggest success of his life, Elijah is feeling empty. He feels like he is the only one left in the entire world who loves God. 1 Kings 19:9-10
Charlie Brown shared his dilemma with his closest friends, Linus and Lucy who sent him on a search for the meaning of Christmas. Elijah shared his dilemma with God who sent him on his own search, not to find the meaning of Christmas but to experience God.
1 Kings 19:11. So Elijah went out and sat so that he could see God.
What happened first was that a huge wind blew through the mountains and Elijah looked for and listened for God in the wind It makes sense that God, a spirit, might be present in a mighty rushing wind, but God was not there. Then the ground shook and the rocks shattered and a great earthquake shook the mountain and Elijah searched for God in the earthquake, but once again, God was not there. Then a fire swept over the hillside and Elijah searched for God in the fire because several times before God had been seen and heard in the presence of a fire, but God was not there.
After the wind and earthquake and fire came what the bible describes as the sound of a gentle whisper or sheer silence. It was a sound and a silence so deafening that it caught Elijah by surprise and he searched for God in the silence and in the silence he found Him. Elijah pulled his cloak up over his face and went out to stand in the presence of God. What’s interesting about this story is that God didn’t come in the ways that Elijah might have expected. God didn’t come with power and force and fire, God came in silence. God didn’t come in ways that would rock the world, God came in the stillness and quiet.
A century after Elijah, the world was again searching for the presence of God, this time in the Messiah, but God didn’t enter the world the way people expected. There was no wind or earthquake or fire, God simply came to the silence of a small town and into the stillness of an unknown couple. God didn’t send Jesus to Jerusalem or to a well-known power couple of the day; he came to the little town of Bethlehem and a poor unknown couple named Mary and Joseph.
As an adult, Jesus didn’t act like the Messiah people expected. Jesus didn’t amass a political force to overthrow a government, he gathered the least and the last and the lost of this world and created an extended family whose power was seen in love and grace. While the people of Israel had been searching since the days of Elijah for the Messiah, many didn’t see him because He wasn’t what they expected. Today as we search for meaning and purpose and the presence of God in our lives, we need to make sure we are looking in the right places. God often comes in unexpected times and places and if we are not paying attention, we will miss God completely.
It’s Elijah who helps us understand how and where to search and the first he thing teaches us is that we have to be willing to start the serach. Elijah knew he was empty and needed God. He knew his life was missing something and so he started a search. Charlie Brown also knew something was missing in his life, or at least in his Christmas, and so he set out to find it. Sometimes the most important step in any process of growth and discovery is the first one. Are we willing to start the search?
This Advent, are we willing to start the search for God and for the meaning and purpose God brings to our lives? Have we gotten to the place where our holiday and our lives just aren’t filling us up so we are willing to start searching for something more? It’s not easy to say that we are empty or that we need help or that we need God – but confessing our need and desire for more is the first step. While it’s not easy, it is simple to begin, we just need to ask God to show us His presence. In the next steps we have included a simple prayer. if you don’t know where to start but know you need to search, then we invite you to start there.
The second thing Elijah shows us is that we can’t give up the search when God doesn’t appear in the times and places we expected. God wasn’t in the wind or the earthquake or the fire – but Elijah didn’t give up. Elijah didn’t leave the mountain and call it quits, he waited it out until he heard and experienced God in the stillness and quiet. Charlie Brown also didn’t give up. He tried to find meaning by directing a play and he tried to find it in his care for a little tree. That’s one of the classic character traits we see in Charlie Brown, he never quits.
When God doesn’t appear the way we thought he would or reveal himself at the time and place that makes sense for us it is easy to give up on ourselves and God – but we can’t. We have to keep going. We need to keep looking for God and if we don’t see or hear him the first time out we need to keep going because God has promised that when we search for Him with our whole heart – we will find him. It might not be where, when or how we expected it, but we will find him.
So we need to start the search and then keep on our searching but then we need to know where to search and we can’t look for God in the things of this world. Just as we won’t find the true meaning of Christmas in tinsel, packages and cookies, neither will we find God in the power, popularity and possessions of the world. Our search needs to take us in a different direction. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount he said, seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. The meaning and fulfillment that will satisfy our holiday as well as our hearts doesn’t come from the kingdoms of this world but from the kingdom of God and the best place to see what that kingdom is like is from the life and teaching of Jesus.
Through his Sermon on the Mount Jesus shows us the values of God’s kingdom and where we can experience God. We will see God when we are willing to forgive and not hold a grudge, when we will pray for our enemies and give to those in need – not an easy thing when our enemies are Islamic terrorists and those in need are Syrian refugees. Jesus also tells us that we will experience the fullness of God when we turn to the spiritual disciples of prayer, fasting and tithing and store up treasure in heaven instead of treasure on earth. The more we can live out this sermon, the more we will be living in God’s kingdom and placing ourselves in God’s presence giving us the opportunity to see and experience God.
As we heard last week, one of the things that is needed if we want to experience the fullness of God and the fullness of life is some quiet time to reflect. In this busy season we need to quiet our hearts and lives and continue to linger with God. This isn’t easy with all that we have on our schedules, but it is important. God isn’t found in the bustle of activities and the craziness of gift giving, God is found in the love and grace and peace we are able to share with one another. God is found in the silence and stillness that we can create in the middle of the whirlwind of the season.
When Charlie Brown was able to grab hold of the true meaning of Christmas, it didn’t come in the Christmas play or music or tree, it come from the word of God spoken in a silent auditorium. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And when Charlie Brown left the auditorium clutching his little tree he walked out into the stillness of the night where he heard once more the voice of God. It is still the word of God and the voice of God heard in the stillness and silence of the world that can turn us around and point us in the right direction. The weeks leading up to Christmas will always be a season of searching and as we search for that perfect gift, perfect tree and perfect cookie, we can’t neglect the greater search, the search for the One who brings purpose to our lives and fills us with perfect peace – Jesus Christ. Let us search for God in the stillness and silence and let us never give up.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Charlie Brown ~ The Search
What physical things will you search for this holiday season?
Where will you go to find them?
What spiritual things will you search for this holiday season?
Where will you go to find them?
Read 1 Kings 19:11-18. Elijah was willing to:
• start his search for God and
• continue searching when things didn’t go as expected.
1. Start your search. Ask God to reveal Himself to you..
Loving God, in this Advent season I find myself empty and unfulfilled so today I begin to search for true meaning and Your presence. Lead me in this journey and open my eyes and the eyes of my heart so that I may see You and be filled. AMEN.
2. Continue searching. It takes time and a quieting of our lives to see God. Create that time and space and then don’t give up the search.
3. Seek first God’s Kingdom.
• Read Jesus Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7
• Read the Parables of God’s Kingdom in Matthew 13
• Linger and seek God in silence a few minutes each day
Join us this coming weekend for
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Friday ~ 7:00 PM
Saturday ~ 2:30 PM
Sunday ~ 7:00 PM