Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special is a tradition in American households that began in 1965. It might have turned out very differently.
Toward the end of the animated program, Charlie Brown, when mocked about his pathetic Christmas tree, asks rhetorically if anyone knows what Christmas is all about. Linus responds with a recitation of scripture taken from the second book of Luke in the King James version of the Bible, verses 8 through 14.
“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 tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my 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, and good will toward men.
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
The scene was almost cut from the final version because television executives watching the first screening before broadcast thought it was pushing religion too hard. It might offend some viewers. They suggested an edit.
Author and creator Charles Schultz dug in his heels and refused to budge. The scene was staying in. It was the point of the story. It was the reason for the season. You can’t take Christ out of Christmas, he was arguing.
And now, 52 years later, we cannot imagine the story having been told another way.
In his beautiful and innocent simplicity, it is Linus who grounds us in our values and reminds us of the true significance of the day.