Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dropping the Blanket at Christmas Time...

[Originally posted December, 2017]

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"

On December 9, 1965, I was nine years old. That Thursday night, my family sat in our little living
room in front of an old Admiral black-and-white TV (like the one in this photo). With a big bowl of popcorn to share, the six of us were all snuggled up to watch a Christmas special. (The show was in "color"--a fact we would not realize for another five years. I was 14 when my older brother Paul surprised our family with its first color TV, and the old black-and-white set went to the basement.)

The show we watched was an animated experiment that even the creator thought was too hastily put together. "Some of the drawing was awful," he admitted. The first hurdle was preserving the two-dimensional comic strip feel of the characters and scenes. The other challenge was assigning voices to characters that had been only imagined by millions of readers for fifteen years. But the most significant reason that airing the show was considered a huge risk for the  network (CBS), was that Charles M. Schultz (the "Charlie" behind the Charlie Brown "Peanuts" comic strip) insisted on including the reading of Luke 2 as the key element of the storyline.

Schultz refused to take out "the true meaning of Christmas" because it was the only solution to the bewildered depression that Charlie Brown mentions in the opening scene. You remember it: the kids are all skating and having fun during the melancholy song "Christmas Time is Here." The song's  words are happy but the melody is sad, which perfectly describes Charlie Brown's state of mind. (The song was written by the lead producer just days before the show aired.)

As the simple plot unfolds, things go from bad to worse for poor Charlie Brown until he finally begs aloud, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"

What follows Charlie's earnest plea is a recitation of the original Christmas story by Lucy's erudite blanket-clinging brother, Linus. This is the scene that two of the producers wanted removed, but Schultz had final say.  It was one of the reasons that many television experts pronounced the show "a flop" before it even aired.

The experts were wrong. The show was loved by my family and millions of others who had devoured "Peanuts" comic strips and the countless Charlie Brown paperbacks sold at Christian bookstores at the time.

This show and this scene has aired unchanged for 52 consecutive years, but it was not until this year that someone pointed out to me a very important detail that Schultz included in this moment:

We all know that Linus is forever attached to his iconic security blanket. He is simply terrified if he cannot hold his blanket. But... watch what Charles Schultz decided to have Linus does when he gets to part of the passage where the angel says "Fear not."  He lets go of his blanket--lets it drop to the stage as if to illustrate the complete peace bestowed by the Angel of the Lord.

This is a classic...

I thought of this scene last night at the CCS Christmas concert when our kindergarten class recited the same passage by heart. More than 700 people shared a beautiful evening with us. The program included seasonal favorites like "White Christmas" and "Sleigh Ride," of course, but the main emphasis was on songs that clearly present the true meaning of Christ's birth, including "Silent Night," which is celebrating its 200th Christmas this year, and was sung by all 700+ in the auditorium.

The second verse we sang says:
"Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy
Holy Face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy Birth!
Jesus, Lord, at Thy Birth!"

1st and 2nd grade

May your Christmas be filled with the security that comes from knowing the true meaning of Christmas.

Tom Kapanka

Friday, June 2, 2017

“Seeing is Believing": How Worldview Affects Everything

We all remember the account in John 9, where a man blind since birth hears Jesus declare Himself as the “light of the world,” and then He makes a mud salve, applies it to the closed eyes, and says, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means “sent”).  The blind man follows these divine directions and is able to see for the first time in his life.
I’ve been to the Pool of Siloam in old Jerusalem. Millions of tourists have seen that sight, but just think… this site is the very first thing that blind man ever saw.  On that miraculous day, he gained a view of the world, but more importantly, he gained a new worldview.

In the next part of the story, after decades in darkness, the man who can now see, ascends the stairs still blinking in the bright light of day. Not yet able to keep his eyes steadily open, his eyes flash briefly like the shutter of a camera every few steps through the crowd, and aided  by “snapshots”  burned into the back of his eyelids, he returns to the place where the small spot of spittled mud has now dried.

By then Jesus was nowhere to be seen, but the news of His miracle was heard by the Pharisees. They were livid that a so-called man of God would violate the Sabbath by healing a blind man in public. “Obviously,” they said to the blind man, “the person you say healed your blindness is actually a sinner.”

The healed man forced his eyes to stay open. The bright sun went behind a cloud, and the glaring Pharisees gradually came into focus as his eyes continued to adjust. For the first time in his life, he saw the power of non-verbal communication. He could see the Pharisaical furrowed brows, the sneering lips, and the pointing finger of  the man who asked threateningly: “Do you agree that the man who did this thing to you is a sinner and not the Christ?”

The reply was candid and classic: “I do not know all the answers yet. All I know is I was blind and now I see.”  He did not stop there, however, because along with his vision he was given a new worldview. “Why do you keep asking these questions? Do you also want to become His disciples? I have been blind all my life. I can see clearly now. If Jesus were not of God, He could not have healed my eyes.”

The angry Pharisees, still blind to the Truth, cast the man from their presence.

Jesus soon found  the outcast and asked,  in so many words, if “seeing is believing.” The man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped Him.

In a matter of minutes, the eyesore of the streets became a “sight for sore eyes” to fellow believers.

Such complete change did not happen with all of Christ’s miracles. We know that some healed lepers never even said “thank you.”  But the blind man gained not only his physical sight  but spiritual sight as well. In his case, along with his first view of the world came a new worldview that lead him to Christ.  Knowing the cost before knowing all the details, he bravely proclaimed the Truth as he saw it.

At the end of John 9, Jesus explains to the Pharisees how the same events can deepen man’s bias or strengthen his belief. It’s all a question of how we choose to view the world. We see this happening more than ever in the world around us. The same evidence is embraced or rejected depending on whether you view God as the Creator or as a "cosmic caricature" of man/s invention--whether you think God is a God of order or that life is just a galactic box of BBs spilled. Take for instance the question: "Is Genesis History?" Your understanding of that question will affect your understanding of the rest of Scripture and its role in your worldview.

This spring, the Lord has provided $50,000 for CCS to purchase  the best-developed K-12 Christian school curriculum on the market.   
Starting in the fall, these resources will further empower our long-standing commitment to be fully accredited and academically competitive while also providing a Biblical worldview in our  textbooks, technology upgrades, teacher tools, and every traveled path we share with the open eyes God gives to those who believe.