Posts Tagged ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’

Advent Devotional Day 5: “Loving the Unlovable”

December 5, 2018

During the month of December, I’ve prepared a series of daily devotionals to help my church get ready for and celebrate Christmas. I created a booklet (if you’d like a copy, let me know), but I’ll also post devotionals each day on my blog.

Devotional Text: Luke 15:1-7

In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown is assigned the task of purchasing a Christmas tree for the Christmas pageant. In a Christmas tree lot of big, shiny, brightly-colored, indestructible aluminum trees—any one of which would have satisfied Charlie Brown’s friends and enemies back home—Charlie Brown  instead falls in love with the smallest, the ugliest, the weakest, the most despised little tree. “This little green tree needs a home,” he said. “I think it will be perfect. I think it needs me.”

I’m reminded of a story that Jesus told about a shepherd. The shepherd has a hundred sheep, and he loses one. Just one little sheep! Who could miss such an insignificant thing?

Well, the shepherd in the parable missed it, and he searches high and low for it. And when he finds it, Jesus says, the shepherd is overjoyed. He carries it on his shoulders and brings it home where it belongs. “Celebrate with me,” he tells his friends and family and neighbors, “because I’ve found my lost sheep.”

Charlie Brown is excited to rescue that little tree, bring it into the auditorium, and place it on Schroeder’s toy piano. His friends and enemies, however, are not excited. They don’t love the little tree the way Charlie Brown does. In fact, they transfer their hatred and scorn for the tree to Charlie Brown himself—and Charlie Brown bears the brunt of their hatred. He’s rejected, scorned, ridiculed, abandoned.

Do you hear the gospel in this?

Christmas means that God himself, through his Son Jesus, came into this world because God loves us and wants to save us. It was as if God said, “These lost human beings need a home. They’ve made a mess of their lives and this good world through sin, but I can fix it. I think they’ll be perfect. They need me to save them, to rescue them, to carry them home.” God loves the smallest, the ugliest, the weakest, and the most despised. Which means God loves sinners like you and me! And God rescues us so that we can be at home with God where we belong.

Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd has come to rescue you, too. Will you agree to be rescued? Will you let him carry you home. If you haven’t already, will you accept for yourself God’s gift of salvation?

 

Advent Podcast Day 21: “Peace Among Those with Whom God Is Pleased”

December 23, 2017

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

Devotional Text: Luke 2:13-14

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Hi, this is Brent White. It’s December 23, 2017, and this is Day 21 of my series of Advent podcasts. You’re listening to the Vince Guaraldi Trio from 1965, and their very interesting rearrangement of “The Little Drummer Boy,” called “My Little Drum.” This comes from the 1965 soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas.

When we hear the Christmas story in the Bible, it often sounds better in the classic King James translation. In fact, many people of my generation think it sounds best of all when we hear Linus read it in the TV special. Let’s listen to that now:

[Play clip.]

Of course, our preference for one translation over another often comes down to style or nostalgia. But the classic King James rendering of the second half of verse 14 is misleading, if not wrong: “on earth peace, good will toward men.”

This translation makes it seem as if the angels are pronouncing God’s favor toward everyone in the world… without condition. And let’s face it: if that were indeed what God’s Word intends to say, well… it would fit in nicely in our culture, which values “inclusion” above all other values.

Just last Christmas, a columnist in the New York Times named Nicholas Kristoff interviewed Tim Keller, the now recently retired pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Over the course of decades Keller had great success reaching young people in their twenties and thirties with an uncompromising gospel message in one of the most secular cities in the world. I was glad to see Keller being taken seriously by the so-called “paper of record.” Read the rest of this entry »

“Glory to God in the Highest,” Day 24: Those with Whom God Is Pleased

December 24, 2016

I recently created a 31-day Advent/Christmas devotional booklet for my church called “Glory to God in the Highest.” I will be posting a devotional from it each day between now and the end of the year. Enjoy!

Scripture: Luke 2:13-14

glory_cover_finalWhen we hear the Christmas story in the Bible, it often sounds better in the classic King James translation:

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.

The shepherds weren’t “terrified” (NIV) or “filled with great fear,” they were  “sore afraid.” Outside of this scripture, I’ve never used “sore” as an adverb. But in the Christmas story it just sounds right.

Of course, our preference for one translation over another often comes down to style or nostalgia. But the classic King James rendering of the second half of verse 14 is misleading, if not wrong: “on earth peace, good will toward men.”

peanutschristmas
This translation makes it seem as if the angels are pronouncing God’s favor toward everyone without condition. Granted, in a culture that values “inclusion” above all other values, this idea fits nicely. Bible scholars now believe that this isn’t what the angels meant.

Modern translations, they say, have it right: “on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (ESV).

Among those with whom he is pleased? If that’s the case, we better find out who these people are with whom God is pleased—and why!

Theologian Joseph Ratzinger, better known as the former Pope Benedict XVI, provides this helpful answer:

Now, with regard to this question the New Testament itself provides an aid to understanding. In the account of Jesus’ baptism, Luke tells us that as Jesus was praying, the heavens opened and a voice came from heaven, saying: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased…” (3:22). The man “with whom he is pleased” is Jesus. And the reason for this is that Jesus lives completely oriented toward the Father, focused upon him and in communion of will with him. So men “with whom he is pleased” are those who share the attitude of the Son—those who are conformed to Christ.[†]

Here’s the good news: If we have accepted Christ as Savior and Lord, God is “well pleased” with us, not because of who we are and what we’ve done, but who Christ is and what he’s done for us. As Paul says of himself in Philippians 3:9, he no longer has a “righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

Do you agree with the following statement: “God is well-pleased with me, not because of who I am or what I’ve done, but who Christ is and what he’s done for me”? Why or why not? Do you believe that any part of salvation depends on your “earning” it?

Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (New York: Image, 2012), 75.

“Good News of Great Joy,” Day 3: Loving the Unlovable

December 2, 2015

booklet_coverI recently created a 26-day Advent devotional booklet for my church called “Good News of Great Joy.” I will be posting a devotional from it each day between now and Christmas day. Enjoy!

Scripture: Luke 15:1-7

In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown is assigned the task of purchasing a Christmas tree for the Christmas pageant. In a Christmas tree lot of big, shiny, brightly-colored, indestructible aluminum trees—any one of which would have satisfied Charlie Brown’s friends and enemies back home—Charlie Brown instead falls in love with the smallest, the ugliest, the weakest, the most despised little tree. “This little green tree needs a home,” he said. “I think it will be perfect. I think it needs me.”

I’m reminded of a story that Jesus told about a shepherd. The shepherd has a hundred sheep, and he loses one. Just one little sheep! Who could miss such an insignificant thing?

CHARLIE BROWN TRIES TO PERK UP THE FORLORN LITTLE CHRISTMAS TREEWell, the shepherd in the parable missed it, and he searches high and low for it. And when he finds it, Jesus says, the shepherd is overjoyed. He carries it on his shoulders and brings it home where it belongs. “Celebrate with me,” he tells his friends and family and neighbors, “because I’ve found my lost sheep.”

Charlie Brown is excited to rescue that little tree, bring it into the auditorium, and place it on Schroeder’s toy piano. His friends and enemies, however, are not excited. They don’t love the little tree the way Charlie Brown does. In fact, they transfer their hatred and scorn for the tree to Charlie Brown himself—and Charlie Brown bears the brunt of their hatred. He’s rejected, scorned, ridiculed, abandoned.

Christmas means that God himself, through his Son Jesus, came into this world because God loves us and wants to save us. It was as if God said, “These lost human beings need a home. They’ve made a mess of their lives and this good world through sin, but I can fix it. I think they’ll be perfect. They need me to save them, to rescue them, to carry them home.” God loves the smallest, the ugliest, the weakest, and the most despised. Which means God loves sinners like you and me! And God rescues us so that we can be at home with God where we belong.

If he hasn’t already, Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd has come to rescue you, too. Will you agree to be rescued? Will you let him carry you home. Will you accept for yourself God’s gift of salvation? What’s stopping you from accepting Christ as your Savior and Lord?

Sermon 12-15-13: “Reel Christmas, Part 3: A Charlie Brown Christmas”

December 23, 2013

charlie_brown

“Something must be wrong with me,” Charlie Brown tells Linus. “I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.” Then he tells Lucy, “I know I should be happy, but I’m not.” Being a Christian doesn’t insulate us from being unhappy, even at Christmastime. Sometimes feeling unhappy is the price we pay for being faithful to God. Fortunately, we are never without hope, and we can always trust that God is up to something good in our lives.

Sermon Text: 1 Kings 19:1-13

Click below to watch my sermon, which includes the video clips from A Charlie Brown Christmas, which I showed and commented on during the sermon.

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

[ACBC01.mp4. Time: 2:07]

“Something must be wrong with me,” Charlie Brown tells Linus. “I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.” Then he tells Lucy, “I know I should be happy, but I’m not.”

Is it O.K. for believers not to be happy all the time—even at Christmastime? Yes. It’s O.K. In fact, sometimes, as people who are struggling to be faithful to God, being unhappy comes with the territory.

Consider no less a man of God than Elijah, who, next to Moses, is the Bible’s greatest prophet. And, like Charlie Brown, Elijah isn’t happy—at least not in 1 Kings 19. In fact, Elijah, like Charlie Brown, is downright depressed. He’s depressed for a couple of reasons: His people, the people of Israel, have turned away from God and have followed after Baal. In the chapter preceding today’s scripture, in a very public demonstration, Elijah exposes Baal as a phony god, which deeply upsets a powerful woman named Jezebel, wife of Israel’s King Ahab. Jezebel is a priestess of Baal. And you might wonder why a king of Israel would marry someone who worships and serves an idol instead the one true God, but that’s how bad things are in Israel at this point! Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 12-16-12: “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

December 19, 2012

charlie_brown

This sermon, based on the Christmas TV classic A Charlie Brown Christmas, challenges us to reconsider our culture’s often vain pursuit of happiness. Charlie Brown, as he says in several places, isn’t happy—even though he knows supposed to be, especially at Christmas. But who says we’re supposed to be happy all the time? After all, being faithful to Jesus will sometimes mean being unhappy. When this happens, we can take courage from the examples of faithful heroes such as Elijah, Mary, and Joseph.

I also find in Charlie Brown’s love for the little green Christmas tree an analogy to God’s love for us, demonstrated so fittingly at that first Christmas.

Sermon Text: 1 Kings 19:1-4, 9-13; Luke 2:8-20

The following is my original sermon manuscript with video clips inserted in the proper order.

[ACBC01.m4v. Time: 2:01]

“Something must be wrong with me,” Charlie Brown tells Linus. “I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.” Then he tells Lucy, “I know I should be happy, but I’m not.”

Here’s my question: “Who says?” Who says you’re supposed to be happy—at Christmas or any other time of the year? Even the founding document of our country says that we only have a right to pursue happiness. Whether we achieve it or not is anyone’s guess.

But… You might object. “We’re Christians. Aren’t we supposed to always be happy? Isn’t something wrong with us if we’re not happy.” To which I say, “No.” As your pastor, I’m giving you permission to be unhappy—even at Christmastime. And there is nothing necessarily wrong with your faith if you aren’t happy. In fact, sometimes being unhappy comes with the territory. Read the rest of this entry »