You might have been as shocked as I was when I turned on the television the day after Thanksgiving to find that nearly every channel is already filled to the brim with Christmas programming. Even amidst the deluge of less-than-exciting holiday themed movies, it’s almost impossible not to appreciate one of the true classics, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” While it may not be the all-time greatest Christmas film, there’s no denying that it holds a special place of prominence in the pantheon of Christmas cinematography! Charlie Brown spends a significant portion of the movie seeking the true meaning of Christmas. Charlie knows that he should be happy – it’s the most wonderful time of the year, after all! – but he simply isn’t. Faced by the overwhelming materialism and commercialism that has crowded out the religious celebration of Christmas, Charlie can’t help but feel disenchanted. It isn’t until Charlie Brown is faced with the proclamation of the Nativity sequence from the Gospel of John, announced by the blanket-wielding Linus, that Charlie recognizes the truth that lies at the heart of season – the birth of Jesus.
During the first few weeks of the season of Advent the Church proposes to us the person of Saint John the Baptist as a source for our contemplation as we draw closer to the celebration of Christ’s birth. Saint John the Baptist is the precursor to Jesus, he is the one crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his paths. It was through John’s preaching that many were interiorly prepared for the Christ, and even the reason why some of the first disciples followed Jesus. The entirety of John’s life is motivated by this mission as a precursor to prepare for the Lord a people who are ready to receive the Kingdom of God. In a peculiar way, our beloved Linus is very much a sort of John the Baptist, he announces to a weary friend the great news that the long-awaited dawn has finally broken upon us, the Messiah promised in the most ancient of days has finally arrived.
It can be difficult not to feel like Charlie Brown, as we’re constantly assaulted from all directions by advertising that promises us fulfillment through the next big thing, or the latest and greatest fire-sale. We can easily feel overrun by the commercialism that tries to grasp hold of every portion of our lives. It’s more than appropriate, then, that the Church points us to John the Baptist, the one who helps us to lift our eyes to the true meaning of Christmas – Christ Himself. John the Baptist carries out his mission to the full, even to the point of giving his life in fulfillment of his vocation. John reminds us that what is most important in our lives is Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. Take the Church’s gentle liturgical promptings this week, and ask Saint John the Baptist to help you hear the Word of God, and prepare a way for the Lord in your heart.