In an article USA Today ran last week on the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas, they printed a conversation between Charles Schulz, the Peanuts creator, Lee Mendelson, the executive producer, and Bill Melendez, the animation director, from when they were planning this production.
Schulz brought up the idea of Linus reciting the passage from Luke regarding Jesus’ birth. He said, “If we’re going to do a Christmas special, we’ve got to do it the right way and talk about what Christmas is all about.” Mendelson said, “Bill and I looked at each other, then I said, ‘There’s never been any animation that I know of from the Bible. It’s kind of risky.’” Schulz responded, “Well, if we don’t do it, who will?”
The risk they took on doing an animated Christmas special for primetime, using a jazz soundtrack, and having only a few months to pull it off, back before computer animation—this special was as quirky and unlikely to succeed as Charlie Brown himself.
We know that the idea to place an exact Scripture recitation on primetime would never have even been thought of today, much less be produced and released. But here it is, 50 years later, playing year after year as a classic that no one dares to mess with.
I don’t know about you, but in that scene when the kids’ laughter subsides and Linus strolls out to the middle of the stage and starts declaring God’s Word, there is an odd anointing in that moment. It’s so misplaced, but so amazing all at the same time—it evidently was 50 years ago and certainly is today, but millions watch it every year.
And one of my favorite details is as Linus gets into his recitation, he drops his beloved blanket to lift his hands. There’s a whole ‘nuther message there.
But let’s end this nostalgic moment with going back to Schulz’s response: “Well, if we don’t do it, who will?” We’re all waiting for someone to do something about the mess we’re in today. So what if we decide to put some Jesus right in the middle of our moments the way Schulz did? After all, if you and I don’t do it, who will?
Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. Thanks for keepin’ it real.
“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. —Luke 2:10 NLT, emphasis added