Anyone who knows me isn’t at all surprised that I love A Charlie Brown Christmas. The Peanuts characters were my favorites as a kid, and anytime my grandfather picked me up from the bus stop with news that a Charlie Brown special was on that night, it was Christmas no matter what time of year it actually was.
Peanuts resonated with me for two primary reasons: 1) I was a child born after 1950; and 2) I identified with Charlie Brown. Fully. I was the reasonably liked kid who nevertheless could be surrounded by friends shouting, “You blockhead!” when I messed up something — and I messed up lots of things. I was the victim of many a metaphorical Lucy yanking up that metaphorical football when I metaphorically tried to kick it and metaphorically landed on my not-so-metaphorical ass. “Everything I do turns into a disaster” is something I said often as a child (and also at 35). But still I keep pressing on, coming through the in clutch when it matters. Just like Charlie Brown.
I also loved Christmas for the presence of presents, but also because of the gatherings, the family and the music. So all in all, it’s no surprise that A Charlie Brown Christmas is still a special I make time for every year.
What might be more surprising is my favorite scene. It’s the one where Linus explains to an exasperated Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about. That scene never fails to move me.
No, this isn’t nostalgia talking; the scene didn’t strike me until I was older. Nor have I found religion; I remain an agnostic who is as uncertain about the truth of the universe as I am sure that the truth isn’t in sociopolitical dogma created by man. I try to live by the principles of peace and love taught by Jesus (and virtually all other religious figures) without the supernatural elements.
What I believe doesn’t matter anyway, because in the context of Christmas, Linus nails it, and that’s all that matters. Charlie Brown sees a holiday rife with excessive commercialization and with magnified pressure to get all the details just right, and in his frazzled state wonders how — and why — this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, because to him it just feels like yet another time to get belittled for trying and falling short. Linus cuts through the materialism and stress with a gentle reminder of how the holiday came to be in the first place. The idea of cutting through excess artifice to get back to basics is heartwarming in any context.
What helps this scene especially is Linus’ choices of Bible verses — Luke 2:8-14 — which spell out the announcement of Jesus’ birth. This passage tells a story, which makes it palatable even to non-Christians in a way that the more grandstanding verses aren’t. (As far as lord-and-savior talk goes, anyway.) Not everyone thinks of Christ as the divine light and the way, but everyone loves the birth of a new hope.
That’s what this scene is all about, and why I will always love it.