It almost did not air. Network executives thought it moved too slowly for a Christmas special. They also were convinced that the absnence of a laugh track, a staple of 1960 era comedies, would be the kiss of death.
It almost did not air. Network executives thought it moved too slowly
for a Christmas special. They also were convinced that the absnence of
a laugh track, a staple of 1960 era comedies, would be the kiss of
To further complicate mattes, the man behind the cast of animated
characters insisted upon using real kids for the voice-overs. As a
result, only a couple of the children who were cast had any acting
However, what most concerned the suits at CBS was the religious
content. The climax of the 30-minute program focused on a main
character quoting scripture.
The executive producer even insisted that the Bible could not be read
on network television. However, the creator of what has become a
Christmas classic refused to edit or otherwise water-down the content.
In spite of network executives’ concerns, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
made its television debut on Thursday, Dec. 9, 1965. The result: More
than 15 million homes tuned in and it captured nearly half of the
The week it aired, the show was No. 2 in the ratings. It went on to win
critical acclaim as well as an Emmy Award for outstanding children’s
program and a Peabody Award for excellence in programming.
The executives at CBS were stunned at the program’s success. Lee
Mendelson, executive producer of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” told USA
Today, “When I started reading the reviews, I was shocked…. They
actually liked it.”
This year marks the 41st anniversary of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,”
the animated classic that features the Peanuts characters created by
Charles Schultz. The storyline not only exposes the crass
commercialization that characterizes too much of American Christmas,
but it also highlights the real reason for the season. And after four
decades, it continues to be popular.
The so-called experts are still scratching their collective heads over
the success of Charlie Brown. Explanations for the show’s longevity
Some suggest the popularity is due to the genius of Schultz and the
popularity of the characters he created. Others insist that it is the
craving for nostalgia of the baby-boom generation that fuels the
seasonal success of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Contrary to expert speculation about Charlie Brown’s success, I believe
the popularity of Charles Schultz’s story about the round-headed boy’s
search for the true meaning of Christmas runs deeper than superficial
sentiment for characters or the desire to reminisce. The success of “A
Charlie Brown Christmas” is anchored in truth.
In a society that is on the verge of committing politically correct
suicide, “Charlie Brown” dares to declare the simple truth that the
reason for the season is the birth of Jesus Christ.
When Charlie Brown shouts in desperation, “Isn’t there anyone out there
who can tell me what Christmas is all about?” Linus responds, “Sure,
Charlie Brown, I can tell you.” He then takes center stage and quotes
verbatim the King James Version of Luke 2:8-14.
With simple eloquence, the blanket-clutching character unashamedly
announces, “For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a
Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
Linus’ quotation stands in stark contrast to a popular culture that
seeks to ban the Guest of Honor from His own celebration. The message
of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the supernatural reality that God
sent His only begotten son into the world so the world might through
Him be saved.
In the 41 years since Charles Schultz first communicated the simple
truth of Christmas through his beloved Peanuts characters, American
culture has grown more secular and politically correct. However, the
hearts of individuals still yearn for truth and meaning.
The truth of Christmas is not found in presents or parties. Nor is its
meaning discovered in twinkling lights or time honored traditions. No,
the truth of Christmas, its true meaning – as Linus reminds us all –
can only be found by looking back in time to the moment that God
entered human history in the person of Jesus Christ.
In the vast wasteland that characterizes much of the American Christmas
experience, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is an oasis of truth. Year
after year, thirsty souls have taken time to drink deeply the profound
truth that God became a man.
Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!