A Charlie Brown Christmas is the best holiday show. Ever. No question.
I’ll give you five undeniable reasons why Charlie Brown does Christmas best:
1. The show speaks the Truth.
“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess … I always end up feeling depressed.” – Charlie Brown
Charlie Brown was boy enough to admit he was feeling blue. So if you’re in the seasonal dumps, just say: “I’m feeling a little Charlie Brown-ish.”
But, we have Jesus. How could we possibly feel incomplete?
The Bible is chock full of people talking about feeling depressed, unfulfilled, or disappointed. Claiming that they just don’t understand Christmas – well, don’t understand God anyway. And these are the prophets and saints – from Moses to David to Peter to Paul – all questioning God.
There are two tricks to the godly questioner: being willing to admit you don’t have the answers, which requires turning over control (Charlie Brown is definitely in a position of humility) and the second trick is to keep it real. By that I mean keep it from just being griping. Moaning for moaning sakes or just to whine isn’t a biblical notion. This other, goodly kind of complaining is a searching – looking to move through the mood.
2. Charlie Brown gives some healthy melancholy.
Heading towards hope is a good kind of melancholy. And that goes to who we make the admission. In the Psalms, it is always directed to God. In the desert, it is always a means to an end – gossip to make the speaker feel better for having spread his/her misery.
What’s great about this TV special is that Charlie admitted his depression and is on the search through it to the other side.
3. Charlie does some good exploration.
He seeks help. Granted, Lucy may not be the wisest choice, but really, where can a five year old go to get psychiatric help for only a nickel?
And while Charles Schulz has some fun with the easy answers, he lets Lucy stumble upon a really good one:
“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’ – Genesis 2:18
Sure, there are times when you need a little space or even a bit of “alone with God” time. But, it isn’t good to be in life alone.
4. I love the non-answer answer.
When Chuck hits the end of his rope and demands if anyone knows what Christmas is all about, Linus steps forward and gives his famous little speech.
“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 shown around about them. And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people.’” – Linus
That’s what it is about. Tidings of hope. Goodwill. Glory. And, in a word: Jesus.
There is no pablum here about we all need to feel good or Christmas is about giving or Christmas is about all humanity learning to get along. It’s about divine hope in the mystery of a divine child. It’s about something a wee bit bigger than just feeling good.
Linus’ words are not a logical argument. They are not a direct answer. He doesn’t say, “Charlie Brown, you are struggling in this area because God is building such and such a character trait in you.”
Really, it just points in the direction of an answer. But it is an answer that works – not just for Charlie, but for us. We are satisfied that the question has been answered.
Linus gives just a little bit of light. And it is enough.
5. This TV special is a Psalm.
Complaint through exploration to praise; that’s the format of many of the Psalms. Notice that Charlie Brown’s circumstances haven’t changed. Everything that depresses him is still there. But, Charlie has changed. More importantly, it’s not about Charlie Brown. By that I mean it’s not about you. It’s not about me.
Charlie Brown is a vessel and the real lesson is not about how Charlie is changed or helped. It’s about what he does for his community.
To understand the full impact, follow the blanket. It’s featured in five scenes:
- In the opening ice skating sequence, Snoopy tries to steal the blanket. Linus will not let go. They end up wrapping up Charlie Brown and sending him skidding into a tree.
- In the snowball scene, Lucy says that Linus will have to let go of the blanket someday – when he becomes an adult. Linus explains he will simply make a suit of the blanket.
- When the parts are handed out, Lucy threatens her brother, saying he has to let go of the blanket to be a shepherd. He instead makes a costume of it.
Here is Schulz’ message: under no circumstances will Linus give up his blanket. (This is critical; if we don’t get that, we cannot understand A Charlie Brown Christmas.)
And then, he does.
- When he’s reciting the Christmas story. Just a moment, Linus forgets about the blanket. (More exactly, on the words “Fear not,” he lets go of his other security; retrieving the blanket as soon as the recitation is over.)
- At the end, Linus gives up his blanket completely to wrap around the base of the tree.
“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.” – Linus
A little sacrificial love.
Linus tells Charlie Brown earlier that he knows what Christmas means; then he shows that meaning in action.
Linus is changed by Charlie Brown’s search for meaning. The whole community (which joins in decorating the tree) is changed. Even Lucy – who admits that the blockhead did get a good tree after all – is changed.
So, why is A Charlie Brown Christmas the greatest holiday TV special of all time?
“Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.” – Psalm 30:11