Romans 3 seems a strange place to be meditating during the Christmas season, I know, but it is where I found myself the other morning, as the day of celebration was rushing near, and I was beginning to feel bone-weary with preparations. Baking and shopping and wrapping and decorating were the extra tasks piled on the already seemingly daunting tasks of the everyday, for everyday we are already just working and surviving and trying to keep body and soul together. Our family was dealing with sickness and moving and entrance exams and job hunting and funerals and weddings- all while Christmas was quickly approaching.
For life and death never have the decency to wait until the holidays are over.
My meditation on Romans 3 started with Charlie Brown’s Christmas, actually, and the sad little tree that he had chosen in hopes of escaping the depression he was feeling throughout the holiday. This year, I had been dealing with my own feelings of melancholy which, inadvertently, led to Charlie Brown’s tree becoming a reality at our house. I had been putting off the whole tree trimming thing as I knew it would be the first year without any of our children participating in it, our first year as empty nesters. It didn’t seem all that important to get a tree up just for the two of us, and it might turn out downright depressing, I reasoned. And so my husband and I found ourselves shopping for a tree far later than usual. After the first two places we stopped at were completely out of trees, we decided we better make due with one of the few trees that were left at the third place, scraggly though they may be, and finally settled on a fairly disappointing one, thinking that, like Charlie Brown, we would cover its imperfections with ornaments and lights and, perhaps, no one would really notice. It wasn’t until we got it home and into the tree stand that the real blunder we had made became apparent, which prompted both a good laugh and my husband to bring up that it was actually the year of the Charlie Brown tree, according to social media. I googled it and found that there were a plethora of opportunities to either buy a Charlie Brown tree or be instructed on how to make my own. The whole thing struck me as insanely ridiculous because the sad little tree and all it represents seem to come quite effortlessly for me.
And yet, I guess that is the point of the obsession with it, as we are all dealing with our own versions of Charlie’s tree and the fact that nothing we can do is ever enough to combat the weariness of trying to be, well, enough.
Weariness is a universal human experience, I suppose, and Charles Schulz knew that. It seems like nothing in life ever goes exactly as we had hoped it would, and Schulz expertly captures that with his famous character. The weariness is magnified because we want everything to be perfect and are rushing around in a frenzy to make it that way. After all, we don’t want friends or family coming to our home for the holidays only to find a messy house or an empty fridge or a Charlie Brown tree. We want a pinterest-worthy Christmas, something that could be the set of a Hallmark movie, with an equally satisfying outcome. And so, in an attempt to get that, we find ourselves perusing the internet, looking for inspiration to create that perfect Christmas… whatever. For me, this year it was Oreo balls, carefully formed and decorated to look like adorable melted snowmen, but which, instead, under my clumsy attempts, came out looking like slightly frightening clowns. I’ve been feeding the scariest ones to my husband while bemoaning the fact that my life keeps coughing up Charlie Brown Christmas trees no matter how hard I try. And so, I found myself pondering Charlie’s little shrub as I arranged ornaments on my own, reminiscing of the many Christmases we had hung these exact ornaments on our various trees, years filled with both new joys and new sorrows.
There has never been a perfect Christmas at our house, and I understand Charlie Brown’s weariness with the whole thing because, like me, he had a longing for a perfect Christmas, a longing that couldn’t be satisfied by all the decorations or the busyness or the commercialization.
Everywhere he looked increased his longing, and was just not enough to satisfy it. And it was this idea of satisfaction that got me meditating on Romans 3, for we all fall short of the glory that was intended, the glory of God. And in falling short, we find, like Charlie Brown, that the longing reaches a crescendo that becomes the cry,
“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about!”
And then, like Schulz's unassuming, blanket toting shepherd, the answer comes- sure and strong and simple, and in the most unlikeliest of ways..a baby lying in a manger, sent by God to be the Savior of the world. And in my weariness, I was reminded that that was why Jesus came... to fix the broken, not enough, rejected little trees we are all in possession of, to be the Enough that we could never be, the All that was needed to satisfy God’s wrath against sinners like me. God provided the sacrifice we are longing for in sending his Son to the world, something we could never do for ourselves. (Rom. 3:21-26). And in meditating on that truth, the constant strivings cease, and I am suddenly aware of the peace that Christ brings, the knowing that things do not have to be perfect because the Perfect One came to redeem them- came to redeem me.
And as Linus would say, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”