I am thirty-five years old. I have been watching A Charlie Brown Christmas for thirty-five years. I was cognizant of the meaning behind this monologue from a very young age. It was something I heard not just once a year on A Charlie Brown Christmas, but every week in church. Jesus was born. He was a baby. He was in a manger. There was a star, and wise men, and presents. Oh yeah, I was aware of the meaning...
But not the reason.
I've been aware of the reason for less than a decade. I learned that it wasn't about a baby in a manger, but a God loving his creations so much that He laid down His life for them. I learned that it wasn't about a story of old times, but of an everyday relationship with Someone very real. I learned that it wasn't about something that happened once 2000 years ago, but about something that happens constantly, every moment.
The reason is love.
We have such a skewed view of love. Love means expectations to us -- it means closeness, or things in common, or finding someone cute/cuddly/sexy/fun. It means settling for the best we think we can get. Love means co-existing with someone who has similar quirks. It means compromising with someone for a mutual disappointment. Love is an attraction between us and someone or something we desire at the moment, for the moment, and something or someone else in the next moment. We love Dr. Pepper. We love Dr. Phil. We love Dr. Mario. We love Dr. McDreamy. We love our dogs, our new cars, our favorite celebrities, mashed potatoes, big screen televisions, the latest version of the iPad, the desert, the beach, the Walking Dead. But how many of us actually have a good grip on what true, unconditional love is?
Here's a clue: it may have started in a manger, but it ended, bloody, bruised, and broken on a cross.
Our relationships are dependent on feelings, emotions, attractions, fulfilled expectations. Our relationships are based first on 'chemistry' and then on 'quid pro quo'. You did it, so I'm going to. You didn't do it, so I don't have to. You do this, and then I'll do that. If you don't do this, I'm not going to do that.
That's not love. That's certainly co-existence, but it does not describe love in any way, shape, or form. Real love, true love, gives. Gives at all costs. Lays down its life. Puts the other ahead at every instance. Endures past any realistic expectation. Forgives constantly. Holds no grudges. Is patient to a fault. Real, true love lifts you up when you're down without blaming you for tripping. Real, true love is absolute in every way, and has no conditions. It doesn't change with the feeling of the day. It doesn't depend on whether or not you've fulfilled your end of the bargain.
This is the background behind why people who call themselves 'Christians' often tend to judge others and put limitations and boundaries on Christ's love. It's because they, themselves don't understand His real, true, unconditional love. It's only human love that they understand. It's a miscommunication that has kept countless people from coming to find that very unconditional love because they see the so-called followers and they run screaming in the opposite direction. If only they knew...
If only they knew that HE has no conditions.
If only they knew that HE loves them for who they are, right where they are.
If only they knew that HE wants them; He doesn't reject them.
If only they knew that HE doesn't care what they look like, who they fall in love with, what they've done, where they've been, who they've been with, what mistakes they've made...
HE loves them. Fully. Wholeheartedly. Enough to die for them, and them alone. Even if they reject Him, laugh at Him, ignore Him, betray Him, or make a mockery of Him... He loves them.
He loves us.
He loves you.
For who you are, right where you are, even if you never take a single step in the right direction.
When you hear people talking about the 'reason for the season' this year, remember this story. Even if you're not following Christ, if you're not a church-goer, if you don't like snow or trees or ornaments or Jesus-people. Just remember that it has nothing to do with what anyone else has said about Him, and everything about what He has to say about YOU.
He loves you.
THAT puts the 'merry' in Christmas.