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Charlie Brown Christmas

“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.”

While my reason differs from that of Charlie Brown’s (that he felt he didn’t understand Christmas), I feel very much the same way. I’m happy, but not at the level I usually am during this time of year. I know I’m not alone in my lack of happiness, that many people greet the holidays with full-blown depression every year. I’m not to that point by any means. But, all the same, this isn’t turning out to be an extremely happy season this year.

There are several reasons to which I could point. However, the main reason is that my brother is ill. He’s sick with the disease of addiction. Lately, we (my family and I) have seen the outworking of that disease which still has a hold on him in some ways. I don’t think he’s on drugs again. But, he’s recently stolen a decent amount of money from my dad. He also doesn’t show the zeal that he once spoke of for getting back on his feet and making progress toward recovery. Sure, he has a job and a girlfriend. The job is good, but the relationship is stressful and laced with drama. To boot, he’s constantly making comments about things that, to me, reveal where his mind is. It’s all very bothersome.

For the last thirty years, my family has come together on Christmas Eve to read the account of Christ’s birth as recorded in the Gospel according to St. Luke and to open one gift each. Nothing has ever stood in the way of this. Not death, not illness, not my parents’ divorce (which occurred in 1991), not even my brother’s incarceration. All four of us have always been present as we’ve been able to be. This year, however, all of us are questioning if it will happen.

I was speaking to my dad last night about all of this. I told him that, to me, this Christmas is broken. He said that he had realized earlier in the day that this is the way he feels right now: broken. Because of that, he doesn’t want a tree or decorations, because that just helps to remind him of the sadness of the situation. I said to him that the only tree I can imagine putting up is a little broken and frail Charlie Brown Christmas tree, because that’s the only kind that seems appropriate. Just a little broken tree to go with our little broken Christmas.

I asked him if he wants to carry on the tradition of the Christmas story this year. He said, “Honestly, no.” I can’t help but share his lack of enthusiasm. My dad hasn’t really spoken to my brother since he sent my brother packing and was later stolen from again. Though, I think I understand that it’s not just the infraction against his trust that hurts. It’s that my brother isn’t well, and that it is so painfully obvious. At this point of realization is also where I am, and where my mom is. None of us have ever faced Christmas quite like this. And, at this point, we sometimes wish it were already Boxing Day.

We might still have the story read. In fact, I suggested that we do it in spite of all this because we remain a family, and we need to exercise our community as a family. I said to my dad that maybe we should just read the story and not open anything this year, that we should just wait until Christmas Day for the gifts. While I like this idea, I would still understand if he says no. Part of me wouldn’t blame him a bit.

Yet, in spite of it all, there is still happiness. This difficulty, harsh as it is for us, is but a mere chill breezing through the warmth that is the Truth of Christmas. This year is helping me to realize how much I don’t want to take part in the happiness that is typically glorified at Christmas. Sure, Christmas is joyous. But the happiness being presented to the general public at this time of year is often plastic and unrealistic. It is a happiness that is sold as a commodity, and the ones who are selling it want nothing less than for you to buy it. Market research consistently reveals that our happiness directly impacts our purchasing habits, both in quantity and in price. If they can make you happier, even if it’s fake, you’ll likely spend more.

I’ll stand with Charlie Brown and say, “Linus is right. I won’t let all this commercialism [or strife, for that matter] ruin my Christmas.”

I’ll end with a quote from the blog of Father Stephen Freeman on exactly this point:

“But the spending that will set us free is the Blood of Christ spent freely – the original Christmas gift. He is the peace on earth and good-will toward man. He is the only gift that will matter – and it is a gift worth fasting for, praying, ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us, and on Thy whole world.'”

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One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By Random Thoughts at Christmas « twelve:one on 25 Dec 2007 at 5:17 am

    […] year, I wrote about my Charlie Brown Christmas and the possible end of a 30-something-year tradition in my family. Well, I’m actually quite […]

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