I seldom read the comic strips, but I must admit that my favorite is probably Peanuts. The first Peanuts comic strip was on October 2, 1950. Charlie Brown, Shermy and Patty were the main characters. Two days later Snoopy made his debut. Violet Gray was introduced on Feb 7, 1951. Schroeder came into the relationship shortly thereafter on March 6. Lucy van Pelt didn’t make it onto the strip until March 3, 1952. She was followed that year by Linus on September 19. But it wasn’t until June 22, 1970 that the little bird Woodstock was first heard from.
Charles Monroe “Sparky” Schulz the author and artist of the cartoon strip was widely applauded for a long list of achievements. Schulz was a Pulitzer Prize nominee, and his comics earned him an Emmy, Peabody, and Congressional Gold Medal. Eighteen years after his death in 2000, trailing only Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, he is still the third top earning deceased celebrity.
But Schulz also revolutionized his industry subtly raising questions about the Bible, prayer, the nature of God, and the end of the world. Snoopy and the other characters of the strip made comic strip readers laugh as they were engaged in thoughts that were uncommon to the funny pages. For example, one day Linus asks Snoopy, “Does it bother you that the Bible doesn’t speak very highly of dogs?” the beagle replies with a reference to one of Jesus’s teachings, “Sure it bothers me, but I just turn the other muzzle.”
Schulz once said, “I preach in these cartoons, and I reserve the same rights to say what I want to say as the minister in the pulpit.” Another time he said, “Little things we say and do in Christ’s name are like pebbles thrown into water. The ripples spread out in circles, and influence people we may know only slightly and sometimes not at all.”
Schulz’s most recognizable reference to religion occurs in the Charlie Brown holiday special exploring the “true meaning of Christmas.” Some network executives thought it would be ignored. Others were worried that quoting the Bible would offend viewers. Some wanted Charles Schulz, to omit the Christmas story. They were surprised when the program was an immediate success. In was placed as number two in the ratings with an estimated 15,490,000 people watching. It has been rebroadcast every year since 1965.
When Charlie Brown, the frustrated director of the children’s Christmas play, is discouraged by the commercial spirit of the holiday season, he asks if anyone can tell him the real meaning of Christmas. Linus steps up and recites Luke 2:8-14 – 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Then Linus says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
During a season designed to announce peace and joy to the world, many are plagued with doubts and fears. While sleigh bells ring and snow is glistening it is good to ponder once again God’s great love expressed in the familiar story of Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus.
That’s what Christmas is all about.
But that story is not complete unless you hear the rest of the story. This little baby, born in a manger was to carry his cross up to the brow of Calvary’s hill just outside Jerusalem thirty-three years later. There this God-man was to be crucified in order to provide forgiveness of sins for all mankind.
He died, was buried but on the third day He arose victorious from the grave, our resurrected Lord. That is the rest of the story. Because of Him we can be forgiven of our sins. Because of Him we can have an intimate relationship with God. Because of Him we can know that when we die we will go to heaven. That is really what makes Christmas meaningful.
It’s all wrapped up in John 3:16 which says,
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, (That’s Christmas) that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (That’s because of the Cross).
A cradle without a cross doesn’t make sense. Today it is crystal clear. We serve a risen Savior. Jesus the God-man, born in a manger, died on a cross and rose from the grave and now sits at the right hand of the Father.
This year as you celebrate Christmas remember that it is all about Him.
by Dr. Gayle Woods