My church is preaching its way through Advent, spending one sermon each on those descriptions of the promised one in Isaiah 9: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and last week we made it to Prince of Peace, a title so comprehensive that it will take us as a congregation straight through the end of Advent and into Christmas.
In his sermon, pastor Dave connected the biblical world to ours, working the connections between the peace that Israel was looking forward to in its captivity, and the range of problems we’re facing in our contemporary lives. It’s a long trip from the Assyrian captivity to a California congregation’s twenty-first century economic and spiritual woes, and the only person who could really connect them is the Prince of Peace: Peace for the chosen people and their shattered covenant, peace for the followers of Jesus Christ.
By way of conclusion for a heavy sermon, we looked at something fun: The climactic scene of the 1965 A Charlie Brown Christmas, in which Linus finally delivers his recitation of the true meaning of Christmas. There is a crucial detail that makes the clip relevant. Linus, he of the perpetual security blanket, delivers the speech with the blanket in hand (sometimes looking like a shepherd’s crook), until the moment he says the angelic words, “Fear Not,” at which he lets the blanket fall to the floor for the remainder of the speech.
It’s a perfect moment in a classic Christmas cartoon, and a profound insight. Jesus renders security blankets unnecessary. That’s not the same as calling him The Ultimate Security Blanket, as if that too-cheesy title could fit in the sequence in which Isaiah describes this Son who is given to us. But as the one who teaches perfect wisdom (Wonderful Counsellor), the one who has all power to deliver (Mighty God), the one who brings the Father’s love to us and exercises fatherly care for us (Everlasting Father), and especially as the Prince of Peace, Jesus certainly displaces our need to cling to the filthy rags of lesser comforts.
It’s just not possible to confess the “Fear Not” of the good tidings of great joy while also clutching surrogate security.
Of course, Linus, or author Charles Schulz, or director Bill Melendez, knew about the sloppiness and difficulty of leaving your security blanket where you dropped it. Watch the cartoon carefully and you’ll see that even the film editing is inconsistent: in a distant camera view of the stage, Linus is shown (impossibly) still holding his blanket.
And of course he picks it up again as soon as the speech is over. But if you know Linus, you know what a big deal it is that he dropped it at all, long enough to turn himself into a living witness to the truth of the coming of the Prince of Peace: “Fear Not.”