For the past four weeks we have been following Charlie Brown’s search for the true meaning of Christmas. Charlie Brown first asked Lucy for some advice and she told him that he needed involvement. He needed to be the director of the Christmas play, in other words, he needed to be in control. We all like to be in control, but that is not what Christmas is all about, in fact Christmas is more about giving control back to God who created us. Charlie Brown also looked to his dog Snoopy for some help and for Snoopy the season was all about Decorations, DiningandDancing. First Snoopy entered the Super Colossal lights and display contest, then he wanted his dinner and then he wanted to dance because these were all things that made him happy. Charlie Brown wants to be happy too, but he wants a happiness that will last beyond the fun things, what he is really looking for is Joy.
Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally, thinks she knows what Christmas is all about – it’s about presents and gifts and so she asks Charlie Brown to send a letter to Santa and to make if easy for Santa, Sally just asks for money – specifically 10s and 20s. But Charlie Brown knows that money is not the answer and so the search continued. In an effort to help find that Christmas Spirit Charlie Brown goes off on a mission to find the best tree he can. His instructions were simple, get a great big shiny aluminum Christmas Tree, maybe painted pink. As Charlie Brown and Linus walk thru the Christmas tree lot they see lots of big shiny aluminum trees that the children would have . They are tall and strong and colorful and bright and flashy, everything the world says is good, but Charlie Brown doesn’t go for one of those trees, instead he finds the little scraggly tree that is overlooked by everyone else. (pick up tree)
For 50 years now, when we see a sad tree like this, or any tree that just doesn’t look right, what do we call it? A Charlie Brown tree. The tree Charlie Brown chose was not what the other children were looking for. It certainly was not what they expected. It’s interesting that this is often how God works. It’s not that God works in mysterious ways as much as God works in unexpected ways.
Take for example the birth of Jesus. This was a birth like no other because the child laid in a manger was the son of God; more specifically this was God coming to earth in the flesh and blood of a little infant boy. Never before had this happened and never again was it going to happen. It was a unique, one of a kind, birth; it was the single most profound and most powerful birth to ever take place. In the words of Charles Schultz, it was super colossal! Now what we might expect and what to some degree makes sense is for this birth to have been proclaimed throughout the world and for Jesus to have been born in royal surroundings waited on and cared for by the best the world had to offer. But God didn’t come the way we might have expected.
Remember what Linus said, you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. Jesus was born into very humble and unexpected circumstances. He didn’t arrive in the holy city of Jerusalem but in the little town of Bethlehem. May and Joseph were a young, unknown couple who couldn’t find shelter in a crowded inn so had to settle for a stable. The infant Jesus wasn’t laid in a crib with the finest linens but in a manger with straw and hay. Jesus wasn’t surrounded by attendants but animals, and the news wasn’t heralded through the palaces of the world but through the hillsides of Judea and the first to visit Jesus weren’t the rich and famous, nor the powerful leaders of the day and not eve even the spiritually faithful, his first visitors were a group of shepherds, a notorious and often unreliable group of men.
God did not come that night as we might have expected, but that is always how God has worked. God chose an ordinary man named Abraham to make a great nation. He chose the last in the line of brothers to be the greatest King of Israel. He chose the smallest family in Israel to bring forth the Messiah. God always worked in ways that were unexpected and that is how Jesus came into this world and that is how Jesus lived his life.
Jesus was not the kind of Messiah or Savor that people expected. He called as his followers; ordinary fisherman and despised tax collectors. He didn’t lead a political revolt or military coup but instead talked about forgiveness, grace and eternal life. At every turn in Jesus life he was not what people expected. He didn’t come to rule in power but showed his power in love. He didn’t come to strong arm the people but used his strong arm to serve and sacrifice for them. In so many ways Jesus was not what people expected, but that is always how God has worked.
Today God still comes in unexpected ways. One of the ongoing challenges given to us in the birth of Jesus is that if we want to see God in the world today we need to look for God in new, fresh and unexpected ways. Can we open our minds and our eyes and our hearts to see Jesus as he moves in our world? Jesus came into Bethlehem 2000 years ago as a baby and he lived as a man throughout Galilee and he died on a cross in Jerusalem, but Jesus hasn’t left us, he’s still here and he still moves in our world. Jesus said when we reach out to the poor, lonely, hurting, and hungry, then we are reaching out to him. Can we see God in our world? Can we see God in the unexpected people and places and events of our lives? And when we see God, can we love him. When we see Jesus, can we receive him still?
Like Jesus, the tree Charlie Brown picked out was not what the children expected, but Charlie Brown could see something special in it and so he chose it and made it his own. Even when the other children that it was foolish, Charlie Brown took it home to decorate. (video of CB decorating tree – kills it)
Charlie Brown took one red ornament and placed it on the tree and the tree bends in half. He’s killed it and he says that everything he touches is ruined. Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel like everything you touch gets ruined or that all your failure and mistakes are just too much to overcome? Do you ever feel like your sin is just too great to be forgiven? If you do then the good news of the angels is just for you because we have been given a Savior and he saves us in the most unexpected way.
The prophet Isaiah (53:5) says about the Savior, Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was laid upon him and by his wounds we are healed. Our sin, the guilt and shame and penalty of our sin was laid on Jesus and Jesus paid the price for that all. In I Peter (2:24) it says, Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross, (on the tree), so that free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds, we have been healed.
I don’t know if you have noticed it or not, but the only ornaments on our Christmas Trees this year are red. These red ornaments represent our sin. These are all our failures, all our brokenness and pain and all those ways of living that we know are not what God would want for us. Let’s face it, on our own we are just like Charlie Brown and can’t get things right – which is why we need a Savior. We need a savior to take this sin away and that is what Jesus does which is why Jesus was born. The angels said, for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Jesus is our savior. Jesus took our sin to the cross, to the tree, and on that tree He paid the penalty for that sin – which was death. Tonight we want to give each of you a red ornament to take home and put on your tree as a reminder that Christ died for our sin. It was our sin Jesus took to the cross, and when our sin was placed upon him, he died. We killed him.
And with that big red ornament bending the little tree in half, Charlie Brown’s tree looks destroyed, but the tree doesn’t stay that way. (video of the children surrounding the tree)
The love of Charlie Brown’s friends surrounds that little tree and brings it back to life and it is the love of God which brought Jesus back to life. Our sin killed Jesus, but the love of God brought him back to life and it wasn’t God’s love for Jesus that raised him from the dead, it was God’s love for US that raised Jesus from the dead. God came to us in Jesus because God loves us. God took our sin to the cross because He loves us. God raised Jesus from the dead because God loves us. If the love God has for us can overcome the grave then the love God has for us is greater than any power or any force in this world. The love of God is greater than any power or any force that is at work in our lives. Whatever darkness we face tonight, the darkness of doubt or fear, the darkness of loneliness or despair, the darkness of grief or pain, whatever darkness we are battling can be overcome by the light of God’s love.
In Romans 8 it says nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing. Not our failures, not our fears, not our doubts, not our sickness and not our sin, for our sin has been taken away and through Jesus we can experience forgiveness and eternal life. When we place our faith and trust in that child born so long ago who died on a tree but then rose again, then nothing can separate us from God and the love God has for us. It is the love of God that brings us life and life eternal.
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.
Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savoir which is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you – you won’t find God the way you might expect – you will find him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And who ever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him and through the power of God’s love for us all.
And that, Charlie Brown is what Christmas, and that is what life is all about.
A Charlie Brown Christmas Eve Quiz
1. L___ told Charlie Brown that Christmas is all about Control.
2. S____ told Charlie Brown that Christmas is all about
D________, D___________ and D__________.
3. Sally asked Santa to send her ______ and _______.
4. Charlie Brown was told, “get a great big shiny aluminum
Christmas Tree, maybe painted P______.
5. Today we call a sad looking tree a C______ B______ tree.
6. Charles Schultz might have said that the birth of Jesus was
7. Jesus was born in B___________ not Jerusalem.
8. Jesus was born in a S_________ not a crowded inn.
9. Jesus was laid in a M_________ not a crib.
10. At his birth, Jesus was surrounded by A_______ not
11. Jesus was first visited by S________.
12. Jesus invited F________ and T___ Collectors to follow
13. The R____ ornament represents our S____.
14. The L_____ of Charlie Brown’s friends brought the tree back to life.
15. The L_____ of God brings us life and eternal life.