The Truth of A Charlie Brown Christmas
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After 49 years, Charlie Brown still outclasses all the other Christmas specials. For sure it was the first of many animated holiday specials, but it is its truth that keeps it the best of them all.
What keeps A Charlie Brown Christmas on the air year after year is because it speaks to the truth we all know in our hearts: the true meaning of Christmas!
DENVER, CO - First broadcast in 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas set the mold for what a children's holiday special should be. The crazy thing is, it almost didn't make it onto TV. It had a small budget and was only finished a little more than a week before its broadcast date. The producers used child actors for the voices, hired jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi to write the score, had no laugh track for jokes, a very slow pace for the story, and an overt religious message. Both producers and network executives were skeptical. They took the unorthodox step of showing the finished product ahead of time to critics who loved it.
Surprisingly the show was a massive success. Almost half of America watched its initial showing. I'm not sure how old I was when I saw it the first time, but I was hooked. For those of us old enough to remember, each weekend the newspaper had the TV Guide for the next week. Once December hit, I made sure to find out exactly what night Charlie Brown would be on.
But why is it still going strong after almost half a century? Revolutionary animation? The brilliance of its jazz soundtrack? An adorable beagle who sleeps on top of his house? Nope, nope and nope..though Snoopy is pretty cool. What keeps A Charlie Brown Christmas on the air year after year is because it speaks to the truth we all know in our hearts: the true meaning of Christmas is not about shopping, parties, Santa Claus and gift giving but that God the Father sent his only Son to save us all.
We can relate to Charlie Brown's anguish as he struggles to understands what exactly Christmas is about. We see him upset about not getting a Christmas card from anyone. We see his disbelief as Snoopy is decorating his dog house. When his sister Sally asks him to put a request for cash in her Santa letter, Charlie Brown deflates even more. The school play drives him over the edge as his scrawny Christmas tree is mocked by everyone.
In utter exasperation he (or his heart) cries out about not knowing what Christmas is all about. Enter his friend Linus who proceeds to recite the annunciation to the shepherds from Luke, Chapter 2, verses 8-14:
8; And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9; And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10; And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11; For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
12; And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13; And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14; Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men."
'...That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.'
Indeed Linus! That's exactly what Christmas is about: tidings of great joy for all people and a Savior. Peace and goodwill towards men. Linus' recitation sweeps away all the stress and anxiety from Charlie Brown's heart. From there, the whole mood of the show changes, as does Charlie Brown's heart. Gone is the anxiety that has so tormented him.
His scrawny Christmas tree is decorated from Snoopy's award winning ornaments, as the children hum Hark! The Herald Angel Sing. It is this simple yet profound message that puts this cartoon ahead of all the others. Do we still enjoy watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. You bet! But those shows are missing what Charlie Brown has: the true meaning of Christmas.
The truth that Jesus Christ was born in stable with a manager for a bed in the little town of Bethlehem. He came into this world to save sinners, all sinners. He would bring hope for all mankind. By his Passion and death, we are redeemed. It is this message that speaks to us each year and why A Charlie Brown Christmas will be shown every year.
"That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown."
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