Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
One of the Scripture texts we read in our family devotions this past week was Luke 2:1-20. After we finished reading this text and praying, we watched the pertinent clip in Charles’ Schulz’ A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Prior to this clip, Charlie Brown had become exasperated by all of the consumerism and materialism associated with Christmas. It all had become so artificial, so far removed from the foundational truth associated with the season. In confusing despair Charlie Brown cries, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
Linus responds, “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” He then moves to center stage and recites the biblical record of the historical account of Jesus’ birth: Luke 2:8-14 (KJV). When finished he returns to Charlie Brown and says, “That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
This is one of my favorite clips from a Christmas program. This is truly what Christmas is all about: the birth of Jesus Christ.
This show first aired on December 9, 1965. The success of the special was by no means assured. Even then there were questions and concerns about things so explicitly religious, and even more so regarding the propagation of one specific religion, Christianity. Remember, this was the mid-1960s. Since that initial showing this show has become a classic evidenced by the fact that it has been shown every year since.
John Murdock writes about A Charlie Brown Christmas and Charles Schulz in Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown:
During these days there were huge shifts happening both personally and culturally. Schulz’ was also affected struggling with his own spiritual life and passing it on to his children. In a sense, that which Charlie Brown bemoans in the story is what everything about Charles Schulz’ Peanuts gang creation became (think of the marketing and sales of Peanuts characters), including Schulz himself.
In contrast to this classic, Murdock refers to one of the more recently produced Christmas programs, Shrek’s Christmas, and concludes, appropriately, the following:
In the most recently produced Christmas cartoon demonstrating some TV shelf-life, another round-headed, socially awkward character looks for the true meaning of Christmas. However, for 2007’s Shrek the Halls, “the Christmas story” turns out to be ’Twas the Night Before Christmas, and the closest it comes to religion is a Hallelujah chorus sung to a massive image of Santa. In its finale, the now festively enlightened green ogre proclaims, “A smelly Christmas to all, and to all a gross night.” For my part, give me Linus, the second chapter of Luke, and the Peanuts gang singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” for another fifty years, please.
For more on Christian Faithfulness in a Changing Culture, attend the 2014 EFCA Theology Conference, January 22 - 24, Leawood, KS.