As many of you know, my favorite Christmas movie is “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. One of the best scenes is when Charlie Brown and Linus go on a search for a Christmas Tree for their Christmas play. They head into an array of pink, purple, blue and silver aluminum trees all set up in a consumer commercial extravaganza. Ironically, Charlie Brown picks the little natural tree that’s barely making it. Linus even protests the choice, saying that his sister Lucy wouldn’t think that this little tree would fit “the modern spirit” of Christmas.
Charles Schultz was so ahead of his time man. He was making a commentary about the over-commercialization of Christmas. I suppose this was becoming evident even in 1965, and more so today 45 years later in 2010.
But I love the fact that Charlie Brown picked the outcast tree. Not long after that, he was laughed at by little Peanut peers for going against the grain. Yet if we remember, by the end of the cartoon all the Peanuts come together, rip off Snoopy’s prize-winning decorations, and turn that tree into something more beautiful than any aluminum tree could imitate.
It actually reminds me of a conversation I had with my friend, Rich, about six years ago. Back then, Rich was into Buddhism and some pretty heavy psychadelic drug use. We used to meet together and go running, or we’d take turns making healthy dinners at each other’s houses. Once and a while he’d light up a joint around me or something, and I (by God’s grace) would resist the temptation to partake.
I remember my last full conversation with Rich before he took off all over the country to hitchhike and explore the world and his mind. He started it off by saying, “C’mon Ben- you know this Christianity stuff is a bunch of bull****, right? You can’t really believe it, can you?” I then proceeded to tell Rich that I loved him, and wanted him to be in the Kingdom with me when God restored all things and made them right. I tried giving him a wild analogy. I said something like this:
Rich, following Jesus is kind of like this… There’s a huge mountain, and you’re at the bottom of it. There’s a bunch of cars at the bottom, and someone tells you that only one of them will make it to the top of the mountain. The cars are a bunch of different varieties and ages. You immediately go to the ones that seem to make the most sense- the 4-wheel drive trucks and jeeps- they break down… The economy cars break down- the vans too. You try them all, from the most attractive ones to the least attractive. All of them break down until there’s this one left. It’s the crappiest looking car of the whole bunch, at least you thought it was. You think “This will never make it”. But it does make it. That’s how Jesus is Rich- He’s the only way to God. I know you believe in a lot of gods- which is a Hindu Philosophy– and you believe that they’ll all get people to heaven. But its not true Rich- Jesus Christ is the only way to God and eternity in heaven- every other way leads to hell. Christianity just looks unattractive because there are so many hypocrites that call themselves Christians and don’t live it. I’m not perfect either, but I know that its true- that Jesus died for my sins and yours. I’m telling you this because I want you to be in the new Kingdom with me.
I loved Rich’s reply, he said very candidly; “So you’re telling me that Jesus is some piece of **** jalopy at the bottom of a hill that will get me to heaven? That’s a pile of **** bro. But I do believe in what you’re doing, and I think you do it well. I’ve got a lot of respect for you man.” As Rich himself would attest, he didn’t even really believe in any “way” or “religion” that solely could lead to God. He really rejected all “gods” in a sense, because he was searching for enlightenment beyond any perceived definition. When Rich left, I told him I loved him, and we had a good hearty man hug. Not long after that Rich hitchhiked through the U.S. and Canada. We still keep in touch occasionally by email and the last I heard he was studying at the Oregon College of Oriental medicine.
You have to understand as well that I didn’t have this intense conversation with Rich until I had gone jogging with him many times, invited him for dinner, and had him sit in with some musician friends playing hand percussion. I really did and do love Rich, because we naturally shared a lot in common and enjoyed each other. All of us connect with certain people more than others, and it’s certainly no mistake that we do.
That possibly goofy analogy I used in conversation with Rich reminds me of Charlie Brown’s love for the little beat up tree amidst all the flashy aluminum ones.
And I still believe that in our culture- Jesus may seem like the most unpopular, jaded, silly, archaic, mythic, foolish, anti-intellectual “choice” of the many spiritual things out there.
But when we take in this rejected, unloved little tree amidst all the flash and attraction of other paths, He elects us to Himself, takes us in as His own. And in the end of the story, we find He is more beautiful, and completely true. Just like the beauty of the tree at the end of the story in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.