What “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Can Teach Teenagers

What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Whatever it may be, you’re sure to want to share it with the teenagers in your life. Watch the Rooted blog this holiday season, where we are uncovering the gospel in some of the all-time great Christmas films. We’ll help you keep Christ at the center of your Christmas celebrations, at home and at church. Enjoy!

I watched my fair share of Charlie Brown when I was very young, including the crowning achievement of the franchise, A Charlie Brown Christmas, an animated TV special that first premiered in 1965. Since then it has become a cultural icon for the true meaning of Christmas. Now, more than ever, that message needs to be heard, but not for the reason you may think. Teenagers and their families can often be distracted with the cultural icons associated with the holiday and many have forgotten the poignant message of God made flesh.

Charlie is asked by his not-so-secret admirer, Lucy, to direct the Christmas Play. Something about the overly excitable mood of the season puzzles him and he decides to get a tree as a centerpiece to accent the production. The tree he picks, let’s say, is not the fan favorite, not the tall, dazzling, conifer adorned with glimmering ornaments as seen on the Rockefeller Christmas special. Rather it’s a sad, small collection of branches shedding needles.

But that’s just how Jesus came into this world—in a place where farm animals did their business. He came in like that sad, small collection of branches shedding needles. Here is the son of God, who as Paul says in Philippians 2:6-7 “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped by made himself nothing,” coming to earth by taking the nature of a slave.

This is the message that Linus gives when a depressed Charlie Brown throws his hands up in the air and screams “isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” The blanket-gripping thumb-sucking Peanut responds by delivering a confident rendition of the Luke 2:8-14 on network television. In our overly-PC twenty first century, one could not deliver this message in such explicit fashion on primetime; however, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz refused to do the special without the scene. Many network executives were leery of the reading of the King James Bible on national television, thinking it would be a turn off for audiences, but Schulz stuck to his guns. So the nation got to hear the real meaning of Christmas—the gospel.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the festive activities of Christmas. My mother would throw the biggest Christmas party in town during my formative years and the house was decked out with the sights and sounds of the season. My wife and kids take great pleasure in picking out a real tree, decorating our house, and making Christmas cookies. These are all good things, but if not viewed in their proper place, we will have missed the message the Lord has for us during this season.

Right before my wife and I had our firstborn, we hired a contractor to renovate a portion of the house in order to accommodate a baby. Now when you are doing construction work, you have to have certain kinds of materials to build the house: wood, nails, concrete, insulation, etc. Each of the materials have a specific role for how they are to be used in building the house. You typically use concrete slabs for the foundation, wood for the studs, and sheetrock for the drywall.

What would happen if you saw a contractor trying to use sheetrock for the foundation?  That would be an ill-informed decision. Why? Because that’s not how you use sheetrock. That is not its place in the construction of a house. Even someone with minimal knowledge of construction knows that sheetrock cannot possibly support the weight of an entire house.  You need something steady like concrete.

I believe that many of us are treating this season in the same way, and our students see the inconsistency. We can participate in all the shopping, festivities, and decorating, and treat these things as if they are the foundation of this season, all the while completely forgetting about the gospel.

Galatians 4:4-5 says “but when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” This is why we celebrate; this is why we have hope. Many retailers see this season as a beacon of hope because it is when they get enough business to end the year in the black, after spending the majority of the year in the red. We, however, have a much greater hope—that of eternal life. We were hopeless, we were separated from God due to our sin, but the son of God, Jesus, who is in the very nature of God was born of a woman, meaning he took on flesh, took on our temptations and suffered and died a brutal death in that very body, and yet rose from the dead to purchase our salvation.

As you go about this holiday season, it’s important to put practices in place to make sure that the gospel takes first place in your life and in your ministry to students. For many there is a temptation to suspend their devotional life because the season is so busy. There’s shopping to do, office holiday parties to attend, Christmas concerts for the kids, among many other commitments. Many will attend church, but out of mere duty for the occasion, not in a mindset to fully offer themselves to God. If anything, this season should mark an increase in our devotional life: Bible reading, meditation, prayer, and introspection. It should cause us to reflect more on the cross, more on the sacrifice Jesus made for us because the potential for distraction is so great. During this time we cling to our church community, not merely to attend or plan an event out of tradition, but for encouragement as pilgrims on this Christian journey, and as ambassadors of Christ who are compelled to share the good news with our friends outside of the faith.

Conversation Starter

What place does Galatians 4:4-5 hold in your heart?  Is it the foundation, or merely sheet rock among a bevy of other materials that are used in the house, but can’t hold it up?

Steve Eatmon has over 12 years of experience in youth ministry and a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary.  Currently, he serves as the pastor to high school and middle school students at the Chinese Bible Church of Maryland. He is married to Heather and they have two children, Ryan and Rachael.  

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