“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” an exasperated Charlie Brown exclaims. “Sure, Charlie Brown,” Linus reassures him, “I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” And then Linus famously recites Luke 2.8-14, part of the biblical Christmas story.
It’s just seven verses. Read by the innocent voice of real child (rather than an adult voice actor), it’s the highlight of the show for many people.
And yet those seven verses almost got the whole thing canceled.
When Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, was first approached about doing a Charlie Brown Christmas special, he included the Scripture reading in his pitch. One of his producers was instantly hesitant, but Schultz insisted.
“If we can talk about what I feel is the true meaning of Christmas, based on my Midwest background,” the producer later recalled Schultz saying, “it would really be worth doing.” Notice how Schultz had to speak of the Christian faith euphemistically as coming from his “Midwest background.” The producer explained that Schultz was adamant that the Scripture be included, “If we hadn’t gone that way, we wouldn’t have done the show.”
And yet, when the CBS producers saw the first cut of the show, they were really worried. “We thought we had ruined Charlie Brown,” one producer said. Along with thinking it was too slow and not liking the music (they didn’t like the music!), they thought it was too religious.
After deliberation, they decided they would still air it – once and then never again – and that they wouldn’t order any more Charlie Brown episodes.
It was aired December 9th, 1965. To everyone’s amazement, the program was a success beyond anyone’s expectations, garnering 45% of all possible viewers!
And the highlight of the show? According to one reviewer: “Linus’ reading of the story of the Nativity was, quite simply, the dramatic highlight of the season.”
The true power of Christmas really is, and always will be, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Savior.