I hadn’t really finished getting ready for this week’s getting-ready- for-Christmas theme, when Al asked me about it on the way home from church. But I had thought about it, and explained that it was about how we get ourselves ready. To get ready in the morning, we get dressed, and comb/brush our hair, and I put on a little makeup. The Bible talks about “putting off” and “putting on” not clothes but character qualities.
But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. … put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. (Colossians 3:8,12-14)
I asked if there were qualities that were especially important to “put on” for Christmas. Al suggested givingness. I never heard the word before, but I like it. We need to put on givingness. He added love and thankfulness, and I suggested joy. Another I would add is patience, as this season often raises stress levels, between bringing together family members who don’t always get along, keeping people busy with many activities, and just the fact our expectations are for Christams to feel wonderful, and sometimes we just don’t feel that way.
This evening we watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s been one of my favorites since childhood. I remember in seventh grade, for a social studies assignment, listing it as my favorite movie, and Charlie Brown as the character I most identified with. I don’t think any of my classmates thought I was a blockhead – being a straight A student earned me some measure of respect – but outside of the classroom I didn’t feel like I did anything well in their eyes.
I don’t remember what I thought then about Charlie Brown’s specific problem in this movie though. I had forgotten until we watched it this evening that he was so concerned about not understanding the meaning of Christmas. He didn’t understand why he felt so unhappy at Christmas, though clearly the commercialization bothered him. (And if it was bad in 1965, imagine what he’d think now!)
Having grown up watching it every year, I didn’t realize until I was an adult that there was anything unusual about Linus reciting the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible. And I didn’t realize until tonight, reading about the background of this now classic Christmas special, that even in 1965 network executives were very much against such an overtly religious aspect to the show. I read elsewhere than only Charles Schultz could have gotten away with it.
But it’s that Scripture that changes things for Charlie Brown. The opinions of the other kids stop mattering to him. He takes his puny tree and happily walks home. And I guess it must have changed something for the other kids too, because after a while they follow. They tear all the prize-winning decorations of Snoopy’s doghouse and somehow transform what had been a branch too flimsy to hold a single ornament into a small but fully decorated tree. And when Charlie Brown returns, they all joyfully sing my favorite Christmas carol, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”
I’m not sure how much givingness I have on right now. I struggle with the fact that I can’t spend much on Christmas, and while I’m happy making homemade presents, not all of my family would be thrilled about receiving them – at least not in place of store-bought presents. I felt joyful while I watched the Christmas plays this morning in church (at the last minute Al was asked to fill in as a wise man in the younger-kids play, in place of a small boy who go stage fright, as well as being a shepherd in the big-kids play). But it’s harder to keep the joy on at other times.
I guess one thing I need to keep putting on is patience with myself.