For decades I've heard the usual complaining of Christian believers, grumbling about how Christ has been taken out of Christmas. I'm one of them. That is one reason every year I look forward to watching, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
The story has been gradually written on our brains since childhood. Many of us can perfectly quote lines from the show, and hum along with the soundtrack of Vince Guaraldi's melancholy, light jazz tunes.
As we know, the story revolves around Charlie Brown’s frustration with how Christmas has become all about money and materialism. "Even my own dog has gone commercial," he moans when Snoopy wins a Christmas lighting contest. All the artificial glitz and sparkle of the holiday has left feeling him empty.
Finally, during the climactic scene at a Christmas play rehearsal, Charlie Brown hollers, "Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?" This is the story’s turning point.
Linus responds to his friend’s frustrated cry. Dragging his blue blanket, he quietly walks to center stage. Lights are dimmed and a spotlight focuses upon him. Raising his hand, Linus begins to recite these famous words from the book of Luke in the King James Bible:
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:8-14).
Linus then walked back to his friend and said in his low-key, matter-of-fact way, "That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." With an unrestrainable smile stretching across his face, Charlie picks up his puny-looking Christmas tree and skips joyfully home, with the knowledge that Christmas is not about perfect performances, fulfilled wish lists or store window glitz. Christmas is about the love of God who sent a Savior into the world for imperfect, unglitzy humanity.
As the show was being made in 1965, this particular scene was at risk of being cut because it was "too religious." But Charles Schulz, creator of Charlie Brown, insisted it remain. "If we don’t do it," he told the producer, "who else can?" The scene was left in. The show won an Emmy Award, became a TV classic and an annual family tradition.
As times continue to change, I hope those who hold the Christian faith will continue to keep Christ at the center of this beautiful holiday. After all, if we don’t do it, who else can?
Merry CHRISTmas to you all!