So there I was Tuesday evening, trying desperately to avoid all the work that had piled up on my desk since Thanksgiving. Book orders to fill, essays to be graded, correspondence to be answered. I had a lot to do, understand. But I was more interested in playing on the computer. I was reading the blogs about possible coaching changes in the college football ranks and all the latest Tiger Woods jokes.
The television was on, but that was about it. I wasn't paying any attention to it. And then I heard that lilting little tune -- the one that can get stuck in your head for days if you let it -- and I found myself setting my laptop aside. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was on. I would have an easier time driving past a train wreck without looking than I would have had ignoring "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
Christmas just isn't Christmas until I have heard Linus recite the Christmas story from Luke's gospel and seen that straggly little pine tree transform into a beautifully decorated Christmas tree right before my eyes.
I almost missed Charlie and Linus and Snoopy and the gang this year. The president pre-empted the originally scheduled broadcast of the Peanuts gang special. There are those among us who insisted that Obama's speech was part of a grand conspiracy to keep Christ out of Christmas, but not even I believe that.
At any rate, I am glad the show aired when it did because I was otherwise engaged on the night the president spoke about his plans for the war in Afghanistan, and I was all alone -- and lonely -- on the cold, rainy night that the Christmas classic was finally shown.
I think I heard that Charles Schultz's animated show was introduced in 1965. I was 13 then and a little old for cartoons, but I had read Peanuts in the morning comics almost every day of my life and wasn't about to miss out on seeing the show. And I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I made sure to see it every time it came on. Some years I would watch it because "my girlfriend wanted to see it," and once I even volunteered to baby-sit for a friend's children so I would have an excuse to watch the show. Eventually, of course, I had kids of my own and watched with them. Now I am finally old enough to admit unashamedly and unabashedly that I watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" because I like watching it -- and the story it tells is just as relevant as it was when the show debuted in 1965.
In case you are one of the seven people in the world who isn't familiar with "A Charlie Brown Christmas," I'll fill you in. Christmas is rapidly approaching, just like it is right now, and good ol' Charlie Brown is all down in the mouth because so many of his friends -- everybody, it seems -- are so caught up in the crass commercialism of Christmas that they are not paying any attention to the real reason for the season. Even his dog, Snoopy, has gotten into the act -- so much so that he won a contest for the garish decorations with which he adorned his dog house.
The lowlight of the story comes when the gang sends Charlie Brown out to pick out the tree for the school pageant and he comes back with a scrawny little bush that barely has any needles at all -- and from that day until this, a Christmas tree that is not quite up to snuff has been called a "Charlie Brown tree."
Eventually, of course, Linus steps forward to remind the Peanuts gang, and hopefully generations of television audiences, that Christmas is not about presents or decorations or parties or food, but is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who came to save the world. Once anointed with love -- the love that represents the love of Christ, Charlie Brown's scrawny little tree became, as I said, transformed into something beautiful. The unspoken message of the show, of course, is that human beings -- even those who are considered to be of little worth, can be transformed into something beautiful when adorned with the love of Christ.
That was a good message in 1965 and it is a good message today. It was a good message 2000 years ago, come to think of it. And it was a message that I really needed to hear Tuesday because I had allowed myself to slip into a pre-holiday funk. I was more concerned about getting all my decorations up and all my parties planned and -- most importantly, "of course," all of those perfect gifts picked out, than I was actually celebrating the birth of Christ.
So thank you Charlie Brown and Linus and Lucy and Snoopy -- and Charles Schultz -- for setting me straight. And thank you, President Obama, for pre-empting Charlie Brown until a night I could watch.
Fourteen shopping days, left, y'all. Don't forget the reason for the season.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. E-mail him at email@example.com.