A Charlie Brown Christmas: Part 1
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” was first broadcast on December 9, 1965. I would guess that I saw that broadcast; for certain, I can’t remember Christmas without my favorite television special (tied with Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” which debuted the following year). The pivotal scene comes when Linus answers Charlie Brown’s agonized cry, “Can anybody tell me what Christmas is really all about?”
“Sure, I can tell you, Charlie Brown,” replies Linus, his one faithful friend. For fifty years, I’ve loved this child’s voice reciting the story of the angels appearing to the shepherds, telling them the good news, and singing their praises, as set forth in Luke 2:8-14 in the King James Version.
Before the show was broadcast, it was predicted to be a dismal failure, in part for stepping over the line of general audience television with the telling of the Biblical Christmas story. To this day, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is probably the primary vehicle by which children of any religious background hear Luke’s story, especially since its release on videotape and dvd.
It’s not that the story was unknown to Charlie Brown, or any of the other characters; after all, they were about to rehearse a Christmas play that apparently told the story (with the addition of a Christmas Queen, if Lucy had her way). But Linus got it. He knew that this story of good news, brought to ordinary people, was somehow the heart of the whole holiday. “That’s it, Charlie Brown; that’s the true meaning of Christmas.”
With this, Charlie Brown’s attitude shifted from despair to hope, from self-absorption to compassion. Hope, born into the world because of a gracious God, through an ordinary woman, shared with plain old folks — hope that changes everything — it still sets us trembling, and singing. It still changes everything.