Since millions of families each year watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, it might not be a stretch to say that Linus van Pelt is the best-known, most widely-heard evangelist of our generation.
The scene is a classic one. Charlie Brown’s frustration is reaching its limits, and Linus steps to center stage to explain the “true meaning of Christmas.” In a stroke of genius, rather than putting words in Linus’ mouth, Charles Schultz chose to have Linus recite from Scripture the story of the angel’s appearance to the shepherds in Luke 2:8-14.
And so, every year, millions of families hear the announcement of the birth of a Savior, Christ the Lord, and peace on earth. It is a simple, but powerful message.
But as with so many simple and powerful messages, it is possible to hear only the simplest, most surface part of the message. Luke’s story, as recited by Linus, is one that is rich, complex, and multi-layered.
Unto you is born . . . a Savior. We might think of a Savior only as one who forgives our sins so that we can go to heaven. But the angel’s announcement of a Savior was made to people who were already a part of God’s covenant. To them, the Savior or deliverer was the one who would restore the kingdom to Israel.
Christ the Lord. For hundreds of years, God’s people had waited for the promised Messiah, the Christ, whose coming would signify that their iniquities were pardoned, their sin and rebellion forgiven. The prophets said that when the Messiah came, God would again become King in Israel.
Peace on Earth. The angel said that the coming of the Messiah would result in peace on earth, God’s shalom. The Messiah was God’s answer to the problem of evil, which breaks people’s lives and relationships. The Messiah came to put together again everything that has been broken by humanity’s sin and rebellion.
More than merely offering forgiveness and personal salvation, Jesus came to establish God’s kingdom on earth, the true Israel. Those who acknowledge Jesus as Lord and live by the virtues and priorities of his kingdom can experience a foretaste of true shalom, God’s kingdom on earth. And you can have the promise of new life in God’s eternal kingdom.
As we celebrate the birth of Christ today, we look forward to the day when Christ returns to establish his eternal kingdom. And we live in anticipation of his kingdom by seeking his shalom in our lives and relationships today. And we learn best to do that by gathering in community with other believers in little pockets of the kingdom.
My prayer for you today is that you would experience a glimpse of Christ’s kingdom in your celebration of Christ’s birth.