This sermon was first preached in 1995 (I believe).  I lost the original sermon, but I had a desire to preach it again.  It has been called one of my more humorous sermons, but I hope, given the season in which it is delivered, it makes sense.  I think it's rather ironic that two days after I preached this sermon, Charles Schultz announced that The Peanuts comic strip is ending.  Prayers go to Mr. Schultz and his family as he battles cancer.

God’s Gift


What’s The Point? (The Remix)

Let us pray:

Christmas time is upon us once again. A time of varied emotions and feelings for different people. One of the sad parts about Christmas is that this is one of the times where people experience depression the most, suicide rates increase, incidents of spousal abuse and child abuse are increased and a host of other things that make you think, what are these people celebrating.

For me, Christmas has not always been a joyous time. In fact, traditionally, I don’t get into the Christmas spirit. I would always ask myself and others, What’s The Point? The first time in recent memory that I got into the Christmas spirit was when my son had his first Christmas a couple of years ago, and even though he was really too young to remember it or appreciate it, I felt something that I had not felt in a long time in regards to Christmas.

And this time last year, I was preparing to go to Jamaica to perform the wedding of one of my friends, and I wound up spending Christmas Day there. Now while this was not the traditional Christmas, certain events that preceded the trip to Jamaica kinda took what little joy I had for Christmas away.

And this year, I am back to where I was several years ago when I originally preached this sermon, which is why I call it "The Remix" sermon. While it is not entirely the same, the sentiment that I discussed when I first preached this sermon about 4 or 5 years ago still remains. Christmas for me just isn’t that big of a deal.

Not to say that I don’t enjoy the feeling of the holiday and the exchanging of gifts, but I do not go all out like I used to. My ex-wife used to always comment about my lack of Christmas spirit, especially since I am a preacher. It seemed to her that I would be one of the main people ready and willing to go out with the sentiments of Christmas.

I thought then and I think now that Christmas has become an interesting mix of things. It has become our most commercialized holiday. For six to eight weeks, we are bombarded with images of Santa and reindeer and candy canes and so-called Christmas trees and the like. The main topic of conversation is what you will give and get for Christmas. And I know I am not the only one, but it bothers me when I hear about how grown adults will get upset because they didn’t get the perfect present for Christmas, or, Lord forbid, they got the wrong present. I would often think, as I do now, that people should be lucky they are getting anything at all.

So while I go through my Scrooge like state, there is something that never fails to drive the point of Christmas home to me. And it comes from one of the most unlikely places. Now I am a big believer that God will use whatever means necessary to make people understand His point, and I think for me, this is a classic example.

As anyone who knows me, they know that I am a big comic collector and reader. In fact, my mother to this day still marvels at the fact that I will watch Saturday morning cartoons just as much as my almost 3 year old son. In fact, he and I have gotten into the habit of watching certain cartoons together, or he will remind me to turn the tv to a certain show.

But I love cartoons and comic books. I have a collection of probably over 2,000 comic books, some of them worth a pretty penny. I have a screen saver on my computer littered with thousands of comic strips and comic strip characters. Everything from Garfield, to Arlo and Janis to Bloom County to comic book superheroes. In fact, it is not unusual for me and one of my best friends to go to a comic book store and spend a couple of hundred dollars between the two of us and just sit around and talk about the new design of the Superman costume or why the last Batman movie was so bad, or what this super villain did to another super hero.

Yes, I, a 31 year old supposedly grown man with a child, and a life I might add, am a comic fanatic.

And every year, I look forward to one particular Christmas TV program. And this year was even better because it was the first time I could really share my enjoyment of this program with my son.

So let me state that above all – above my love for Green Lantern, Batman, Bugs Bunny, or any other comic character, I love the Peanuts. Yes, the whole Peanuts gang. And this year, like I have done almost every year since I can remember, I raced home to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.

For over 30 years, this tv show has come on right at the beginning of December with it’s lovable cast of characters whom have not aged in the 50 or so years since they were created. I’m sure that just about everyone here has seen this special at least once, but if for some reason you are not familiar with the Peanuts gang, let me brief you on it, so you can have a real understanding of these people, these comic characters, who each year, remind me of the real meaning of Christmas.

There’s Snoopy, the coolest dog on the face of the planet that everyone wishes they had; there is the fussbudget Lucy; the overly dramatic Sally; the unusually athletic Peppermint Patty and her sidekick Marcie; Schroder, the musical genius; Linus, the blanket loving intellectual; and my hero, Charlie Brown, the loser that everyone loves to love. Yet, this cast of characters, always without adult supervision, never fail to remind me of the real meaning of Christmas.

The episode in question goes something like this:

The Peanuts gang are putting on a Christmas play, and are in need of a director. Somehow, Charlie Brown is chosen for this auspicious role. Now the rest of the gang groan, but Charlie Brown, the loser that he is, the one that always messes up everything, relishes his new role. This year, he vows, he will put on the best Christmas play ever.

And as they practice and rehearse, Charlie Brown begins to notice little things. Like how commercial Christmas is, and how everyone just seems to be going through the motions. He even gets irritated when his sister Sally gets him to write a letter to Santa Claus for her and is so specific about what she wants, that it seems more like a checklist than a Christmas list. Even the dog house of his dog Snoopy is decked out complete with lights and tinsel and everything.

One of the tasks for the director Charlie Brown is to buy a Christmas tree. So he and Linus and Snoopy go to the place to buy the tree. And they pass up all the big, expansive trees, the ones that just scream out to you, and he settles on this little sprig of a tree. A tree, with at best, about 4 branches and 10 leaves. Linus tries to talk him out of it and Snoopy turns up his nose, but Charlie Brown, feeling a kind of kindred spirit with the tree, decides to get it anyway and vows to make a beautiful tree out of it anyway.

When they get to the final dress rehearsal, everyone is in their station and places. They go through the motions of the rehearsals but something is just not right to Charlie Brown. When he sets down the tree on Schroder’s piano, they put one ornament on it and it droops. The cast moans and groans about how Charlie Brown is messing up Christmas and how he can’t do anything and that they knew they should have gotten a different director. Nothing is going right for Charlie Brown. No one seems to be in the proper spirit. Finally, in exasperation, he screams out to the top of his lungs, ‘DOES ANYONE KNOW THE REAL MEANING OF CHRISTMAS?"

And Linus, in his usual intellectual and understated manner speaks up and says, "I do, Charlie Brown." And Linus walks out with his blanket into the middle of the stage, calls for the lights to be dimmed, and begins to recite, in an understated manner, from the Gospel According to John, the 2nd Chapter, 8th through the 14th verses. And he says:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Then Linus, walks over and ends his recital of this scripture by saying, "That’s the real meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown." Then a look comes over Charlie Browns face. And I can only imagine that he realizes that the meaning of Christmas is not found in gifts, or Christmas trees, or toys or food. It’s about God. It’s about the birth of Jesus. It’s about the greatest gift that has even been given to man, and all it took for him to get it was the recital of 6 lines of scripture.

And each year, when I watch this, I get misty, and I realize that in all of my "bah humbug" and non-Christmas spirit, that I too somehow loose sight of the real point of Christmas. And I dare say, most of us here today do as well.

After all, how do we truly view Christmas? After the trees and the lights are put up, after the nativity scenes are in place, after the gifts are exchanged and the food is eaten, what do we have left? Are we really any better off than we were the year before? How much are our spirits truly lifted? In this age of slogans and rhetoric, what do we gain?

Sure, Christmas is the time for giving and the time for sharing, but with all the importance that we place on sharing and giving, what do we come away with. I had a friend ask me a few weeks ago whether or not I thought it was right for her to give a Christmas gift to someone she knew that was an atheist. After some protracted discussion, my answer in essence was yes. After all, if we want to be technical, we are celebrating the event of Jesus’ birth. In all likelihood, Jesus wasn’t even born on December 25th. The wise men who came bearing gifts didn’t come that night, but a few days later. But that is not important. What is important is that we remember why Jesus was born and why God thought it necessary to send his son to Earth in the form of man to save us from ourselves. Because if we are all truly Christians, then it doesn’t matter if we give a gift to someone who doesn’t believe, as long as WE believe. As long as WE have the true meaning of Christmas in our minds and in our hearts, and we are in keeping with the giving spirit of Christmas, what difference does it make what the other person believes?

This is a time to truly show ourselves as true Christians. Not Christians who use the holiday as others do for time off of work, or an excuse to eat, drink and be merry. No, if we are really Christians, deep in our hearts and in our souls, and we are appreciative of the ultimate gift that God has given us, then we will express that not only during Christmas, but throughout the entire year.

When we give to those less fortunate than us, we are expressing the Christmas spirit, not when we wish someone a merry Christmas. After all, telling someone Merry Christmas often are just two words that we are programmed to say. But when we give of our time and our talents, when we give of ourselves, when we give out of our hearts and our souls, then we have the Christmas Spirit. Then, we understand the point of Christmas.

For the point of Christmas is not the gifts that we give, but the gifts that God has given us. The ultimate gift. The gift of His Son to us. After all, how many of us would allow our children to be born, only that they might be ignored, betrayed, ridiculed, and killed, so that we might potentially save some other people? How many of us would sacrifice ourselves or our children in that matter?

When we talk about the real meaning of Christmas, let’s talk about the birth and the death and the resurrection of Jesus. Let’s talk about the love of God for every man, woman and child on the face of this Earth. Let’s talk about how Christmas love and spirit can be extended to everyone regardless of their beliefs or their stations in life. Let’s talk about how there are too many people around us with not enough food to eat. Let’s talk about how there are too many people around us with no place to sleep. Let’s talk about people who have to church to go to, or don’t have enough money to get to work or can’t find a job.

Let’s not worry about buying little Johnny that a new pair of $100 gym shoes, or that Pokemon game, or that new computer, or the latest CD. Let’s worry about if little Johnny has enough to eat, let’s worry about if little Johnny can read, let’s worry about if little Johnny can get to school without getting shot and then get out of school without getting stabbed.

In this day and age where children are in danger like no other time before, in this day where Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore want you to believe that all is well in good in America, let’s show a little true Christmas Spirit for those people that the Bush’s and the Gore’s have forgotten about. The people whom they don’t see, but we see everyday, when we are going to work or going to school, or even, that we passed by on our way to church this morning.

You see, the real meaning of Christmas is not about making yourself feel better, but the real meaning of Christmas is about giving honor and glory to God. The real meaning of Christmas is about stopping and giving time to those who have less than you. To those who can’t afford that fur coat, to those who won’t have a turkey dinner, and to those who don’t even know what Nintendo or a Sega is.

Let’s show the real meaning of Christmas, and feed the poor, clothe the naked, educated the dumb, help the blind see, free the oppressed, and give spirit to those who have none. Let’s be real Christians and get the message out that there is a God who loves them, a God who cares for them, a God who protects them, a God who blesses them everyday whether they believe in Him or not.

Let’s be real Christians and get the message out to them that salvation is for everyone, not just the saved. That peace is available, not just for the holy. That grace can come to all, not just the pious. That love is ready, willing and available, and all if you have to do is accept it. Accept that which may seem impossible or improbable or even unthinkable. Accept the fact that God sent His son down to be beaten, bruised, cursed, rejected, all so that we might live a better more complete, happier, healthier and stronger life. That this life and the life of those around us might be blessed with riches as of yet untold, much more than that new car you want, much more than that new suit you want, much more than that VCR you want, much more than that necklace, watch or ring that you think you deserve. Much more than the combined commercialism of this Christmas that we have become accustomed to celebrating and more like the Christmas that we should be celebrating.

Yes, I may loose sight of it from time to time, but I do know the real meaning of Christmas. I do know that Christmas is not in what I give, but how I give. Christmas is about not just the birth of the Christ child, but about the love of God, for all of man. Don’t just say that Jesus is the reason for the season, but mean it. Don’t just recite it because it sounds nice or cute or trendy.

I don’t know about you this morning, but I want to celebrate the real Christmas. Not the Christmas the media wants us to celebrate, not the Christmas the politicians want us to celebrate, not even the Christmas our friends want us to celebrate. I want to celebrate not only the birth of Jesus, but the love of God. I want to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas, as found in the words of Luke:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

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