Maybe you’re afraid to say this out loud but somewhere inside you find yourself thinking, Christmas without Christ is exciting and fun.  Ok, so I just offended half of you reading this, but stay with me.

The cast of characters for Christmas continues to grow, Santa Claus, Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, the Grinch, Frosty the Snowman, Buddy the Elf, Clark Griswold.

moviesThere are movies that are traditional Christmas classics, It’s a Wonderful Life, Christmas Story (with optional Red Ryder BB gun), White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol (please don’t die Tiny Tim).  There are more modern movies that we watch at this time of year, Home Alone, Christmas Vacation, The Santa Claus, Elf, Fred Clause, Nightmare before Christmas.

I could write song titles related to Christmas for hours.  How about just a few instead, Jingle Bells, Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas, The Christmas song (Chestnuts), Sleigh Ride, I’ll be Home for Christmas, Winter Wonderland and Baby it’s Cold Outside?

lawn ornamentsThen there are the decorations avalanching out of every department, hardware and drug store on the planet.  In days of old, it was tinsel, holly and a few lights.  Now it is automated trains, giant blow up snow globes, sycronized lights, Anna and Elsa as well as a million other characters tossed on our lawns.

Finally there is the materialistic onslaught starting well before Black Friday and extending up to the terror of the last few days before Christmas.  The marketing is relentless and convincing based on spending habits.  Our children get more toys in a single Christmas than we had in 10.   Parents want their kids to have a better life but is this it?

It’s sometimes overwhelming with the lights and the sounds and rushing around to buy things and visit the in-laws.

Now contrast that with the story of Jesus.  It’s a small town on the other side of the world over 2000 years ago..  He was born into poverty, animals would drink water from the trough that was His bed.  There is this quiet moment of awe, fighting against the dramatic fanfare and frantic spectacle that is an American Christmas.  The two things don’t mesh well.

You don’t want to take the fun out of this time of year but you also don’t want to take Jesus out of this time of year.  So what is a Christian person to do?

Be like Charles Schultz!

In A Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon from 1965 (yeah, it’s that old), Charles Schultz combines fun and faith.  Each year we’re captivated by Snoopy’s dancing, Schroeder’s piano, Lucy’s ego, Charlie Brown’s bad luck and Linus’ awesomeness.  Have you ever really thought about this cartoon?  It’s a classic and yet it’s so different from anything out there.  Charles Schultz, the creator of Peanuts, was a complete rebel with the making of A Charlie Brown Christmas…don’t believe me?

In the 60′s no one used kids for voice over work and yet Charles Schultz insisted on it.  The kid who did the voice over work for Sally was so young that she couldn’t even read, they had to feed her the lines.  All of the kids but two had no voice over experience.  Today, when you listen to A Charlie Brown Christmas it doesn’t sound fake or contrived, the kid’s voices sound real and believable.

As you can imagine the network wasn’t in favor of having Linus recite a series of verses from the Bible, specifically the book of Luke.  Who wants to listen to a reading of the King James Version of the Bible in a cartoon for kids?  This was critical to the integrity of the cartoon in Schultz and Bill Melendez’s (the director) mind.  The true story HAD to be included in this cartoon, Schultz wouldn’t have it any other way.  He is quoted as saying, “If we don’t tell the true meaning of Christmas, then who will?”

Charles Schultz even rebelled against the common notions of the day.  Think about it, have you ever seen another cartoon with Jazz music as the soundtrack?  Yet, it’s beautiful and it conjures up images for all of us.  It has been reported that the network executives were HORRIFIED when they saw the completed cartoon.

Kids doing the voiceover work

Reading from the Bible

A Jazz soundtrack

No laugh track to tell people when to laugh

This cartoon will be a huge failure and you know what?  Mr. Schultz you will be to blame when this stupid cartoon tanks.  50 years later A Charlie Brown Christmas is still airing each year, multiple times.  Showing that faith and fun can live together!

Written by Ron Cloer