Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
In 1965, the Coca-Cola Corporation primarily as a means for advertising commissioned Cartoonist Charles Schultz to create a Christmas special. Charles Schultz then began to create a vision of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Schultz embarked on the project not merely wishing to entertain, he insisted if he was going to attach his name this special was going to be about some sort of deeper meaning. Charles Schultz wanted to craft a special that captures the melancholy or bitter sweetness of the Holiday season faced by so many people. To add to the realness of the story, Schultz insisted that there be no laugh-track so the story would develop organically. Schultz also insisted upon having children rather than adults do the voices (unheard of at the time) as a way of emphasizing the lack of polish he wished for his characters to convey. But the ultimate request that Charles Schultz made to CBS was that a reading of the Nativity Story from the Gospel of Luke be included. Executives were reluctant of the overt religiosity of a special that dared to include a 51 second reading from the King James Bible. Executives after A Charlie Brown Christmas sneak previews were convinced that this would be the last Charlie Brown special because it was going to bomb, so bad. They would have taken it off the air, yet it was already on the schedule with the backing of one its biggest sponsors in Coca-Cola. Yet a Charlie Brown Christmas was a smash hit. Half the TV’s in America were turned into it; it won Emmy and Peabody awards later that year. The same special in 2010 was a given a five year extension by ABC taking it up to 50 years of Christmas viewings. A Charlie Brown Christmas is the definition of a Holiday Classic. What I wish to talk about tonight is the reasons for its popularity.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is popular because Charlie’s experience is all of our experiences. Charlie comes to the Holidays living in a painful place, feeling isolated from the world around him, it’s the story of feeling sad on what is supposed to be the happiest of occasions, yet it is in the midst of all this that Charlie Brown through his friends Linus receives the surprise of Grace. It was in the magical 51 seconds of a reading from tonight’s Gospel from Luke 2nd Chapter that the Charlie Brown was lifted from his gloom and his existence changed forever.
For those unfamiliar of not remembering the story well, A Charlie Brown Christmas tells the story of a depressed Kindergarten boy on the eve of Christmas. Charlie couldn’t understand why he wasn’t in the mood for the Holidays. Charlie had a hard time grasping why he felt like he did with everyone around him seeming to be so happy. Charlie on the advice of his friend/enemy Lucy agrees to direct a Christmas play as a means of trying to get into the Holiday Spirit. Yet Charlie’s leadership soon encounters kids who seem more interested in just trying to have fun then discovering the true meaning of the season. Charlie figures the only way to fix the cast’s attitude, with the play, is to go purchase a tree. Lucy gives Charlie the suggestion of purchasing the biggest, shiniest, pinkest tree in the lot. Yet when Charlie gets to the Tree Lot a certain tree stands out to him, the only real tree in the lot. Yet this tree was not a beautiful tree it was a wimpy tree, a weak tree, a dying tree. Yet there was something about this tree that captivated Charlie Brown. The Tree was a metaphor of how Charlie Brown saw himself. Once Charlie returns with this puny tree, he is instantly laughed at. Lucy couldn’t believe how dumb Charlie would be to purchase such an ugly tree. This last bit of mockery began to break Charlie Brown down. Charlie had come to the point in his life where he viewed everything he touched as a disaster. The cruelty of the children around him caused Charlie to eventually break down as a he said in a tone of agony, “Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
Then out onto the stage walks Linus. Linus was an interesting choice to read the Christmas story in front of an audience since Linus whole existence was marked by a lack of self-confidence. Linus was known by everyone else around him for his famous security blanket, which people thought of as being silly, childish, and unnecessary. Yet Linus needed this blanket as something to grasp so that when he was weak and heavy laden, he could be given comfort and rest- Matthew 11:28.
So as soon as Linus steps onto the stage- he reads Our Gospel Lesson.
“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 good 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, good will toward men.”
As soon as Linus proclaimed to Charlie Brown the true meaning of the Holiday. Charlie Brown was given a new sense of purpose. Charlie decided to pick up his fragile little tree, and then walk home. After hearing Linus’ words, Charlie decided that this tree was important because it was his tree. Charlie wasn’t going to abandon his tree; he was just going to keep on loving his tree. In the meantime, moved by Linus’ reading as a critique of their selfishness the Peanuts gang follows Charlie Brown home, where Linus upon seeing the tree standing before him proclaimed another word of Grace as he says, “I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little bit love.”
Linus saw hope where no one else saw it in the scrawny, little tree. The Peanuts Gang then decorated the tree revealing its beauty and self-worth, right before singing “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing“ together as the show closed.
As a way of illustrating the impact of this special on the American public about the weak, little tree. One thing that should be noted for anyone born in 1979 like myself is that a very popular trend of the early 1960’s was skipping real Christmas trees for brightly colored aluminum ones hence the pink trees being prominent in the special. But when viewers saw Charlie Brown stand by his tree in spite of its ever diminishing life span, it caused the aluminum tree market to collapse. Hence aluminum trees were no longer being manufactured just two years after A Charlie Brown Christmas first made it on the air.
The story of Charlie Brown brings us to our Gospel lesson for today. It’s a message to the Charlie Brown’s and Linus’s other there. It’s a message that Jesus Christ was born as a way of bringing good news to those who have been beaten down by self-doubt, anxiety, and despair. It’s a message to those who see in the mirror everyday all the ways they’ve fallen short, for not being pretty enough, rich enough, tall enough, or strong enough. It’s a message that seeks to break down the fake human masks that we tend to portray for all the world to see versus the weakness of our very reality as emphasized by Charlie Brown’s little tree. It is a message that seeks to reach those who feel forgotten and abandoned by the world. It is a message about Shepherds, the people who occupied the very margins of society. Shepherds were considered to be the type of people who society had given up on yet. Yet when the Angel comes to them it illustrates that God does not give up, when others around you do.
For born this night was a baby lying in a manager wrapped in swaddling clothes as a mere mortal, the Son of God was born in a feeding trough. It’s a story which proclaims that Jesus is being born amongst those who least expect it. It’s a tale that says when you’re like Charlie Brown and about to give up as you’re broken by the world, broken by your own sin, to remind you that God does not give up on you. God sent his own son into the world, born of a Virgin. So that as a many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ- Galatians 3:27. The message of tonight is we are all ultimately Charlie Brown. So that even when we are afflicted by that which occurs around us this Holiday Season or the months that come after it, we know that we are not alone in this world.
Be assured that on this night a baby was born to be your savior. This baby was born to unexpected parents in the lowliest of places of a feeding trough. This Baby was born to embrace you in the midst of your failure, and never let you go. This is the story of A Charlie Brown Christmas and this is our story for tonight. Amen
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 Habeeb, Lee. “The Gospel According to Peanuts”. National Review Online. 25.Nov.2011. Web. Dec.10.2013
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 Marciuliano, Fransesco. “6 True Facts about ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’. Smosh Online. 3.Dec.2012. Web. Dec.10.2013
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 Johnson, Matt. “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.” Resurgence Online. Mars Hill Church-Seattle, WA. 21.Dec.2012.Web. Dec.11.2012.
 Schneider, Matt. “That’s What Christmas Is All About, Charlie Brown: Law and Gospel According to Peanuts, Pt. 2.” Mockingbird. Christ Episcopal Church- Charlottesville, VA. 7 Dec.2012. Web. Dec.10.2013
 Schneider, Matt. “You’re a Hopeless Case, Charlie Brown: Law and Gospel According to Peanuts.” Mockingbird. Christ Episcopal Church- Charlottesville, VA. 18.Jan.2012 Web. Dec.10.2013
 Schneider, Matt. “You’re a Hopeless Case, Charlie Brown: Law and Gospel According to Peanuts.”
 Schneider, Matt. “That’s What Christmas Is All About, Charlie Brown: Law and Gospel According to Peanuts, Pt. 2.”
 Marciuliano, Fransesco. “6 True Facts about ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’
 Satterlee, Craig. A. “Commentary on Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]”. Working Preacher. 24.Dec.2012. Web. Dec.11.2013
 Satterlee, Craig. A. “Commentary on Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]”.