Jesus Christ & the Christmas season: What Starbucks can learn from the Peanuts Gang

Luke 2:10-11 “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Starbucks joined the PC world this Christmas. They announced that by removing any reference to Christmas from its annual red holiday cups it has created a “blank canvas” for customers to “tell their Christmas stories in their own way.” I’m sorry, but the word ‘CHRIST_mas’ is pretty self-explanatory. I think it’s impossible to tell the story any other way than its original meaning: the birthday of Jesus Christ.

This coming week is actually another birthday we can celebrate – it’s the 50th birthday of the Christmas special “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, based on the comic strip Peanuts, which made its debut on December 9, 1965. Unlike Starbucks, the creator of the Peanuts classic didn’t cave to the politically correct culture of that day. Charles Schultz had a very clear understanding of the true meaning of Christmas, because he wrote the story based on the second chapter of the gospel according to Luke.

Schulz’s main goal for a Peanuts-based Christmas special was to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. His producer and director warned him to leave any reference to Jesus Christ out of the story because religion was too controversial for American television. In the 1960s, not even 10% of Christmas stories mentioned the birth of Jesus Christ. Schulz had a simple answer: “If we don’t do it, who will?” And he was right – Americans to this day rank “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in the top three Christmas classics.

How did Schulz put the spotlight on Jesus Christ? He portrays Charlie Brown as dismayed by the over-commercialization of Christmas. When he visits Lucy in her psychiatric booth for help, she invites him to direct a Christmas play at school so he can catch the ‘Christmas spirit’. On his way there, he watches Snoopy decorate his doghouse with lights. Then his sister Sally wants him to write a letter for her to Santa Claus, asking Santa to give her money (“tens and twenties”). He’s now on the verge of depression.

When he arrives at rehearsal, he tries to get everybody in the ‘right mood’ by suggesting they get a Christmas tree. Lucy tells him to go bring back a “big, shiny aluminum tree.” Charlie Brown takes Linus with him and they bring back a real live tree, not a fake aluminum one that everyone wanted. But it’s a tiny sapling that can barely stay upright after Charlie Brown decorates it. Everybody laughs at him.

As he starts walking away, he turns to the kids (and the American audience watching on TV) and yells out loud: “Does anybody really know what Christmas is all about?” All attention turns to Linus, who announces that he can explain Christmas to him. Linus then recites from memory Luke 2:8-14:

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them: and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.’”

Linus closes with a direct answer to Charlie Brown’s question, which is actually Charles Schulz’s message to secularized America: “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” What Linus and Schulz want us to grasp in the Christmas story is that the Christmas baby born in a manger is God. As John MacArthur tells us, “Christmas is not about the Savior’s infancy; it is about His deity. The humble birth of Jesus Christ was never intended to conceal the reality that God was being born into the world.”

In verse 11, when the baby Jesus is declared as our ‘Savior’, it means He is our Deliverer who saves us out of our bondage to our sin. This same baby Jesus is then called ‘Christ’, meaning ‘Messiah’ who is anointed by God the Father, and then thirdly He is called ‘Lord’, meaning Master who has supreme authority over mankind. This is why the angel told the shepherds it’s not a time to fear but a time of great joy for all people, in all countries, at all times in history. This includes America today.

This is the Christmas story that Charles Schultz wanted to tell the American audience 50 years ago. The executives at Starbucks have either forgotten or have missed that clear undeniable meaning.