While I considered what magic to work with the Thanksgiving leftovers that linger in our refrigerator, I wandered into the garage to see what my husband was up to. I found him surrounded by Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, Woodstock and a pathetic little Christmas Tree. I have been feeling overwhelmed and somewhat less-than-hopeful as of late. Since Charlie Brown has always been a symbol of hope to me, I was most grateful to see that my husband had unearthed him for another year.
The Peanuts Gang was born just a few years before I, and it didn’t take long for me develop great affection for each one of them, especially Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown’s misadventures reflect our human experience at its worst and at its best. In spite of his frailty and seemingly unending list of failures, Charlie Brown never abandons his hope. Though Lucy always drops the football before he kicks it, Charlie Brown embraces the opportunity to try to kick it every time. Maybe this time, he will succeed. Though the Pretty Little Red Haired Girl doesn’t even know Charlie Brown’s name, he waits with great anticipation for her first smile. Maybe this will be the day she notices him. When his friends need a tree for the annual Christmas pageant, Charlie Brown selects a thinly branched, minimally needled tree. He drags it to his school, certain that it will be just right. Though most of these ventures bring about Charlie Brown’s complete embarrassment, they also end with Charlie Brown’s renewed hope in the things to come. Charlie Brown remains ever faithful to his resolve to find joy in his life. Though the glare of Charlie Brown’s failures threatens to dissuade him, Charlie Brown never ever gives up.
It seems to me that the good Charlie Brown has much to teach us this Advent Season. Could it be that Charlie’s creator Charles Schultz referenced Isaiah when he conceived of Charlie Browns plight in this life? Both Charlie Brown and Isaiah suffer through their own cycles of troubles to triumph, back to troubles and on to triumph again and again. Poor Isaiah speaks from his own intense suffering in today’s first reading (Isaiah 63: 16-17, 19b; 64:2-7). Isaiah fumes at the Israelites over their continued unfaithfulness to God. He cannot stand to watch their evildoing any longer. Isaiah fumes even more vigorously at the Lord God who seems to allow the people to fall into evil repeatedly. Isaiah shouts at the heavens as he begs, “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?” As I read Isaiah’s words, echoes of similar quandaries from my own lips swirl in my memory. How many times have I looked up to our patient God to ask, “If you do not want things to be this way, why don’t YOU fix them?” Fortunately, there is good news in all of this. In the end, Isaiah reclaims his hope and renews his faith in the possibilities that lie ahead. My friend Charlie Brown may moan and wring his hands momentarily as well, but he follows Isaiah’s lead. It seems to me that you and I have no choice but to do the same. Isaiah prayed, “O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you are the potter: we are the work of your hands,” because he was grateful to be God’s child. So am I.
Every day, you and I and our loved ones face difficult challenges. Whether it is the troubled economy or our troubled hearts, we face the moment at hand without the resources we need. Whether it is the discouraging job market or our own discouragement, we find ourselves lacking in productivity. Whether it is the miles between us and our loved ones or our inability to communicate with one another right here, we find ourselves feeling alone. There truly is no lack of blessings in our lives, yet we are sometimes blind to them. This Advent Season opens with an invitation to wait with joyful anticipation for the coming of the Messiah. Though Isaiah had only his faith to encourage him and Charlie Brown was at the mercy of Charles Schultz’s pen, we have everything we need to make the most of these days before Christmas. We know the Messiah firsthand in his Word and in every good deed he did for those around him. We know the Messiah through his life and through the death he endured for each one of us. We know the Messiah in the amazing moments of peace, joy and love which punctuate our lives. We know the Messiah in the people God has given us to love. So it is that we continue to kick that football and dream of the Pretty Little Red Haired Girl with Charlie Brown. So it is that we look with Isaiah to our God for all that we need. So it is that we live these days of waiting with great faith and great hope in the things to come.
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