Tim McDonough

Tim McDonough

As a kid growing up in the 1970s and 80s, there were several traditions that took place in my parents’ home during the Christmas season.

My parents, Bill and Shirley McDonough, truly loved Christmas. Every year my dad, (and my older brothers, Matt and Mark), would go and pick out a live Christmas tree for the family.

While they were getting the tree, my mom, my older sister, Shaun, my younger sister, Colleen (when she was a little older), and I, would get to work getting out the decorations and Christmas ornaments.

My mom would get out the record player, too, and have the Christmas albums ready to play when we as a family would decorate the tree.

Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” was a staple every year, as was the lesser-know “The Jack Jones Christmas Album.” Jones, a two-time Grammy winner, was a pop and jazz singer from the 1960s that my mother adored. (Many people around my age know Jack Jones as the singer of the “Love Boat” theme).

When I close my eyes, I can picture the seven of us decorating the tree, putting up the decorations, listening to the music, and just having a great time.

Another staple during the Christmas season at my house was watching all the specials on TV, such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and of course “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Looking back on it now as an adult, I know I didn’t fully understand what “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was truly about.

On the surface, it’s about Charlie Brown feeling like Christmas is too commercialized, that he’s trying his best to be the director of the Christmas play, and that he thought he failed when picking out a little Christmas tree that would lose its needles every time someone touched it.

(On a side note, I think the music of the Vince Guaraldi Trio fits the theme of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” perfectly).

What I failed to realize when watching it as a child, is that “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is all about the reason for the season ... the birth of Jesus.

Now when I watch it every year, I can feel a lump starting to form in my throat every time Charlie Brown screams, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

That’s when Linus Van Pelt, the one who carries around a security blanket, says, “Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.”

Linus moves to the center of the stage and proceeds to share Luke 2:8-14 from the Bible: “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.’”

Linus finishes by saying: “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.”

I read there was a debate over the scripture reading in the special, but “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz insisted it stay in or he wouldn’t allow it to air.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” first hit the airwaves on CBS in 1965. Executives at the network figured it would be a one-and-done special, because they didn’t think it was very good.

Of course, we all know what happened.

All these 55 years later, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has become a Christmas staple and Luke 2:8-14 has become one of the most widely recognized Bible passages because of a “Peanuts” cartoon character named Linus Van Pelt.

Now who doesn’t think the Lord works in mysterious ways?

Tim McDonough is the religion editor of The Crescent-News and may be contacted by email at tmcdonough@crescent-news.com.

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