In the Christmas classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” there is a wonderful scene. Everyone starts laughing at Charlie Brown because he has purchased a scraggly, scrawny Christmas tree. Charlie Brown is saddened and screams out loud asking if anyone can tell him the meaning of Christmas. Linus says he can and quotes Luke 2:8-14 from the New Testament in the Bible.
When he gets to the part where the angels tell the shepherds “Fear not,” he drops his security blanket. Linus, who never drops it and goes into a panic when Snoopy swoops into cartoons to steal it, can let it go at the angels’ message of peace.
Luke 2:10 “Fear not. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
Fear not. God has come. And though he could have come solely as a judge, because we have all done wrong, he comes as a savior.
The song “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” has a wonderful line. Referring to the dark streets of Bethlehem when Jesus is born, it says, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Indeed! God shows up and all our hopes and fears don’t just meet, they collide. Is God for us, or against us? The good news of Christmas is that God comes in love. He is for us.
That song, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” is worth singing and remembering. It was written exactly 150 years ago by an American preacher, Phillips Brooks, in 1868.
Consider the time. It was three years after the end of the Civil War. It was the year of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment. African-Americans had gained freedom but the backlash was violence and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.
Infrastructure in the South had been devastated. Chimneys, standing in overgrown fields, were in many places the only sign that once there was a home and a farm on that spot. Many African-Americans were refugees and homeless. Many soldiers were dealing with the loss of an eye or a limb or more in the war. Inflation meant that one dollar’s worth of gold cost $70 worth of Confederate notes.
Hunger was high as a lack of manpower meant some foods rotted in southern fields and cattle roamed free with no one to herd them.
Politically, economically, and socially the nation was reeling and dazed after far worse than a mugging.
And Phillips Brooks wrote “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” with the music written by Lewis Redner. In the worst of circumstances, hope and fear met and hope won. There isn’t room to quote the entire song, but we close with the promise Brooks heard in his heart and wrote in his dark time of fear and hope:
“No ear may hear his coming, But in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive Him still The Dear Christ enters in.”
Rick Cupp is a minister at Kenai Fellowship. Sunday Bible classes for all ages take place at 10 a.m. Worship is at 11:15 a.m.
Wednesday meal is at 6:15 p.m. Worship and classes at 7 p.m.
• By RICK CUPP, Minister’s Message