December 15, 2016
What Is Christmas All About
In Texas, a religious liberty battles rages at one school over quote from ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’
In the classic holiday TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” the main Peanuts character, saddened by the over-commercialization of December 25, decides to put on a play. But when his classmates push him to modernize the production and mock his sparse Christmas tree, Charlie Brown, exasperated, shouts out: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
Linus, his thumb-sucking and blanket-toting best friend, speaks up. “Sure, Charlie Brown,” he says. “I can tell you what Christmas is all about.”
Then the character recites a lengthy Bible passage, from the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, when angels descend upon the flock-tending shepherds to announce the birth of baby Jesus.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord…” Linus says. “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
It is that quote, extracted from the special’s most overtly-Christian scene, that has thrust a Texas middle school nurse’s aid, the school district she works for and the state attorney general into a very public — and unseasonably bitter — debate over what “religious liberty” means inside the walls of the state’s public schools.
The battle began last week, when Dedra Shannon, a nurse’s aide at Patterson Middle School in Killeen, Tex., scrawled that Linus quote on a 6-foot tall poster, added a cutout of the character and the famously sparse Christmas tree, and taped it to the nurse’s office door.
On December 7, the principal asked Shannon to remove the Linus quote or take down the poster altogether.
On December 8, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that mandate was “an attack on religious liberty.”
The school district argued that Shannon’s homemade Linus poster, with its biblical quote, violated the Merry Christmas Law by promoting Christianity without also acknowledging other secular symbols, like a snowman, or other winter religious traditions, like Hanukkah — a requirement of the statute. It also mandates that a school display cannot include “a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.”
Paxton asked the school district to rescind the “unlawful policy,” apologize to Shannon and “move back into compliance with state and federal law.”
At their meeting Tuesday night, which drew an audience of nearly 100 people, the school board refused.
The decision left Shannon in tears, according to the Daily Herald, and attendees “visibly upset.”
Source: Katie Mettler/The Washington Post
Photo courtesy of Texas Values
Luke 2:10-11 (HCSB)
But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.”
What does today’s God’s Story scripture teach us about Christmas?
Dedra Shannon, the nurse’s aide in today’s story, wanted a reminder of the real meaning of Christmas. So she put up a poster with the words in Luke chapter two. She was probably surrounded by the commercial aspects of Christmas - trees, lights, gifts, holiday music and more. These are all fun and meaningful characteristics of the season, but they are not an answer to what Christmas is all about. The question asked by Charlie Brown is just as relevant today as it was 50 years ago when the Peanuts Christmas Special first aired. And Dedra saw an opportunity to display the answer that the angel provided in Luke - today, a Savior was born; his birth is good news for all people.
How can I connect today’s God’s Story scripture to my life?
Dedra Shannon may have been disappointed that her poster was removed, but many people will be reading the newspaper article. And the story of the birth of Jesus is being reported again and again.
How can you share the real meaning of Christmas? Read Luke 2:1-20. Notice how the shepherds reported to others what they had been told. Pray for an opportunity to tell someone else the “good news.”
How can I connect Today’s Story, God’s Story, and My Story to others?
Share this story with a friend - telling them what Christmas is all about.
As family and friends gather for Christmas parties and meals, consider how you could share the story of Christ’s birth with someone who does not know what Christmas is all about.