I know you have already say something along these lines, but I love this special. I know it is overplayed. I know that it seems trite. However, I think it is one of the most flawlessly done holiday special ever.
I think most people, to one extent or another, are fans of Charles Schultz and Peanuts. I think that in Charlie Brown, we all see the tragic version of ourselves. He feels unloved and, perhaps worse, unliked. He is perpetually asked to lead this or that, plays and teams, and all they do is mock him. Everyone around him seems greedy and, frankly, human. Charlie Brown is the victim of childhood; perhaps even an adult stuck in childhood.
The story goes, in 1843, Charles Dickens looked around at the horrible state that London turned into during Christmas. The bacchanalia that ensued lead Dickens to create a tale of family and friends, of love and compassion. A story designed to refine a culture. Much in the same way, according to his biographer David Michaelis, Schultz was hired to write a Christmas Special. He got the contract around Memorial Day and realized that no one went to the army graveyards anymore to celebrate the troops. He felt much the same way about Christmas. In about 115 years, Christmas had gone from an alcoholic disaster to a family debt excuse.
I know in general, the thought of Peanuts is that it is a Christian comic strip. In fact, I would argue that it is not. While Christianity is part of this strip, it is more of a crutch. The main themes of the strip are loneliness, fear, sadness, failure. In fact, Christianity comes up only at the end of the short with Linus’ famous monologue.
“Lights Please, And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 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, good will toward men. (Luke 2, 8-14) That’s what Christmas is all about.”
However, even after this, Charlie Brown fails Christmas. It isn’t until Linus fixes his tree that he is accepted. In the arch of the story, Charlie Brown goes from being told he would not ever receive a Christmas card from Violet to being having every one tell him Merry Christmas.
I think that Charlie Brown is perfect for this season. I think we all build up ideas in our heads of the greatness of gifts we have selected or parties planned, or even things we want to receive. However, our hopes and aspirations are often tested. Trying to plan a party to be shot down, giving well thought out gifts for an honest let down, or dropping so many hints that anything received seems forced. Unappreciated or requited effort is the worst thing of all.
Perhaps I am placing too much on Charlie Brown, however, I know that Schultz felt these things. First you need to feel loved, next you need to feel needed, finally you need to understand the season; then and only then, can you belong.