Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Charlie Brown Christmas

I saw an advertisement for the Charlie Brown special, coming up on Sunday night. This is an excerpt of an article in USA Today about the Charlie Brown Christmas. Last year was the 40th anniversary of the show that almost didn't exist.

Schulz, who died in 2000, never doubted the power of his tale of Charlie Brown's quest for the true meaning of Christmas amid the garish trappings of a commercialized holiday. "It comes across in the voice of a child," says Jeannie Schulz, the wife of the cartoonist, whose friends called him Sparky. "Sparky used to say there will always be a market for innocence."

Peter Robbins, now 49, was the voice of Charlie Brown. "This show poses a question that I don't think had been asked before on television: Does anybody know the meaning of Christmas?"

On paper, the show's bare-bones script would seem to offer few clues to its enduring popularity. Mendelson says the show was written in several weeks, after Coca-Cola called him just six months before the program aired to ask if Schulz could come up with a Peanuts Christmas special.

Charlie Brown, depressed as always, can't seem to get into the Christmas spirit. His friend and nemesis Lucy suggests that he direct the gang's Christmas play. But the Peanuts crew is focused on how many presents they're going to get, not on putting on a show.

"Just send money. How about tens and twenties?" says Charlie's sister Sally as she dictates a letter to Santa Claus.

Charlie goes to find a Christmas tree to set the mood. He returns with a scrawny specimen that prompts his cohorts to mock him as a blockhead. In desperation, Charlie asks if anyone can explain to him what Christmas is all about.

"Sure, I can," says his friend Linus, who proceeds to recite the story of the birth of Jesus from the book of Luke in the King James Version of the Bible. "And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and goodwill toward men,' " Linus says. "And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Here it is in a newer version, but the message is the same.
Luke 2 - The Shepherds and the Angels
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

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