December 8, 2015
A Charlie Brown Christmas speaks to the reason why the very first Christmas was so utterly necessary.
I think you hit the nail on the head, Stephen: this Christmas special is an amazing illustration of our brokenness and our need for that first Christmas, all wrapped up in a cartoon with a goofy beagle and even goofier dancing.
I recently, for some reason or other, took a look at the script of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and I was struck by how much pain is present in Charles Schulz's words.
When you strip away the animation and Snoopy and the fact that's it's geared toward children, and just take in Charlie Brown's words, it's straight-up uncomfortable. It's like a gut punch, because the words are so relatable, and they usually remind us of an especially painful time in our lives.
"I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus."
"Everything I do turns into a disaster."
"I know nobody likes me."
"It's all wrong."
"I'm not happy."
"Everything I touch gets ruined."
And then there's the cringeworthy attack, "Boy, are you stupid, Charlie Brown."
Man, that is heavy! How can this possibly end well?!
Because in the end Charlie Brown finds peace in both the Word of God and the community of his friends (as broken as they are and as rotten as they can be to him). And just like our own renewal in Christ, that weak, broken and pathetic little tree becomes transformed into something amazing.
I love this cartoon! And I've actually been thinking a lot about it myself lately. Thanks for writing this, Stephen, and giving me more food for thought.
Steve V. - thanks for reading and thinking out-loud with me about this. It is the naked script that really started me thinking about this as well. Somehow, in my younger days, the darkness of the words must have been overshadowed by the media it was delivered to me by. As I have grown older, and now find myself watching this with my own children, no amount of animation can seem to cover them up. And yet, there is an unspeakable honesty in it all that makes it one of the best Christmas stories of all time, beloved by Christian and on-Christian alike. It should most certainly serve as an example of the way in which we might engage our unbelieving neighbors this season with a gospel that doesn't shy away from the truth of the pain and loneliness that can often rise to the surface during the holidays. Thanks again for reading and responding and sharpening me with your own reflections.
I think the movie "peanuts" while not about Christmas still is honest to the original and has those same qualities.
This definitely goes along the tag line "no such thing as secular", because the Truths of God's Word are universal; they apply to any person, anywhere, no matter what they are feeling or what lies they have been told to believe. The true value of community and friendship and the Word itself shine through in this beautiful movie that would be branded as secular. But the realities dealt with in this "children's" classic are so real, so powerful, so honest that it actually isn't fantasy at all. It's a relate-able, and a symbolic expression of what we experience as mature adults contemplating life and faith during the Christmas season. It resonates, with a promise bigger than the plastic, bigger than the culture, bigger than the season; Especially, as you said, because it reminds us why the first Christmas was so necessary to begin with. Honest and transparent storytelling opens up the conversation about Truth across "sacred-secular" boundaries.
Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is NOT claymation. It's stop-motion animation.
In Reply to Mag Mashift (comment #27684)
Good catch, Mag. I should have known that.
Josh (TC editor)
So... what you are saying is that of all the Charlie Browns in the world, we're all the Charlie Browniest?
Thank you for this post, because even in this, "dark night of the soul," in which I find myself, I am comforted by the fact that tears still come to my eyes when Linus speaks. Even when faith is a wreck, God moves through an invented character by a manic-depressive genius. God uses the honest crazies.
My third graders are performing this play this week. My son is pig-pen. God speaks. God still speaks.
And I find myself grateful for these desperately important conversations... like the difference between claymation and stop-motion...
Thanks, bro. Keep it coming.
Wow. I read many articles here and disagree often, but this one is spot on.
The brokeness of man is indeed what inspires all of us when we see this crartoon each year because we can relate. It's REAL and a friendly reminder that we are not alone, and that better yet, on this day, a child was born to save us from ourselves.
Agree with the essay and the comments. Mr. Schulz was a true Christian.
But truth is where you find it and I can find it in Jean Shepard's "Christmas Story." 65 years ago or so when I got my first radio I stayed awake every Fri (Sat?) night to listen to "Old Shep." When our kids were old enough we watched the tape every Christmas for at least 10 years.
We can never have enough of the REAL Christmas Story in whatever mediam
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