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Spent some quality time the other day watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I remembered why it has always been my favorite televised Christmas special.
1. The Hand-Waving: The climax of the episode has to do with Charlie Brown’s little stick of a Christmas tree. Already despairing because Snoopy has won a prize for doghouse decoration — proof to Charlie Brown that Christmas has been over-commercialized — ol’ Chuck tries to hang a single ornament on the scrawny tree. It bends to the ground under the sheer weight of it. Charlie Brown stomps away. But then the gang shows up. Linus sees the tree, proclaims, “all it needs is a little love,” and all the kids proceed to surround Snoopy’s doghouse. They frantically wave their hands around, and in doing so strip Snoopy’s home of its decorations. Then they approach Charlie’s tree, frantically wave their hands around again, and magically transfer Snoopy’s ornaments to the tree — which has suddenly transformed from a stick with pine needles into a lush, decorated, full-fledged Christmas tree! It’s a Christmas miracle! The animation is unintentionally hilarious, which led to a Saturday Night Live “TV Funhouse” animation by Robert Smigel a few years ago that satirized the whole scene. It, too, is gut-bustingly funny, even when it gets kinda dirty at the end.
2. The Singing: After the Miracle of the Modified Tree, the gang spontaneously breaks into a round of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” eventually joined by a thrilled Charlie Brown. When the Peanuts kids sing, they close their eyes, tilt their heads back so far that you can practically see up their noses, and belt it out in wide-mouthed unison. I personally think the world would be a better place if, whenever possible, we all assumed that posture while singing. Especially while singing Christmas songs. If you attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service, I challenge you to sing the chorus of “O Holy Night” in the Peanuts singing stance. It’ll give you chills.
3. The Gospel: Speaking of getting chills, I am convinced that there is no more powerful scene in television history than the part where Linus recites the Christmas story directly out of Luke 2 — in the King James Version, no less — during the program’s Christmas pageant. It’s undiluted Scripture quotation, performed by an animated, thumb-sucking, blanket-carrying, big-headed child, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never watched it without getting goosebumps. And it still airs on ABC every Christmas. Thank you, Charles Schultz.
So…what’s your favorite Christmas special?
In the meantime, Merry Christmas! This season, may you know the love of Christ, which transforms sinfully scrawny sticks into lush, beautiful trees. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.