Does anyone know the true meaning of Christmas? That memorable line was queried by our Peanuts’ pal, Charlie Brown, in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Although this beloved Christmas program has aired on television for 48 straight seasons, it almost never made it to television. Charles Schulz’s pilot for Good Grief Charlie Brown was rejected by all the major networks. Charlie Brown’s future was looking grim, when Coca Cola approached Schulz about sponsoring a Christmas special.
So, on a shoestring budget and within an incredibly short timeframe, Schulz worked in conjunction with producer and director Bill Melendez to create what is now widely recognized as a timeless Christmas classic. Before the short film aired, it endured a litany of criticism for both its stylistic methods and content. CBS network producers protested the choppy animation, the absence of laugh tracks, and the integration of jazz music in a children’s program. Furthermore, they disapproved of voiceovers that recorded kids, rather than adults. However, their chief issue was with the segment that featured Linus quoting the birth of Christ from the book of Luke. Executives assumed their audience would not want to sit through a program that cites scripture from the Bible. Yet Charles Schulz battled with executives to preserve his vision for the movie, arguing, “If we don’t tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?” When the network viewed the final production, they were convinced the half-hour special would flop and explained to Schulz, “We will, of course, air it next week, but I’m afraid we won’t be ordering any more.”
A Charlie Brown Christmas aired on December 9th in 1965. It was watched by nearly 15 million people and was ranked number two that week in the ratings. It has since won both an Emmy and a Peabody Award for best children’s programming. Can you imagine if Charles Schulz had listened to the network producers and allowed them to secularize the film’s content? Instead, Schulz defended the script’s integration of the truth about Christ’s birth, and viewers responded, as evidenced by the program’s climbing popularity. While the Peanuts characters are amusing to watch, the most meaningful part of A Charlie Brown Christmas is the scene in which Linus reads from the Gospel of Luke to reveal the true meaning of Christmas.
Want to hear more about the true meaning of Christmas? Come out to Reliance Church’s Christmas Eve service at Linfield Christian School tonight at 4pm & 6pm! https://www.reliancechurch.org/to-save-us-all-christmas-2013/