Year after year, during the week of Thanksgiving, families gather around the television to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Since it first aired on November 20, 1973, it has become as much of the holiday tradition as the turkey, the Macy’s Parade, and backyard football.
It is a welcome site when our television screens begin projecting this classic cartoon. We find comfort that Charlie Brown still doesn’t kick that football, and that Snoopy is given more responsibility than the average beagle. Comforting especially when department stores quickly replace Halloween decorations with Christmas ones; when politicians debate who should and should not be welcomed; and when saying, “Thank you,” seems to be nothing more than the reminders of a nagging parent.
In the special, Sally tells Charlie Brown that she went to the store to get a turkey tree and there was all this “Christmas stuff.” Later she laments, “I haven’t even finished eating all my Halloween candy!” (even though she was in the pumpkin patch with Linus on Halloween). We feel Sally’s pain. Before we even get to Thanksgiving, we are bombarded with Christmas music, Christmas sales, and Christmas decorations.
Has the materialism of Christmas caused a forgetting of the tradition of Thanksgiving?
I wrote this for our middle schoolers a few weeks ago to use in their Sunday morning small group. It’s a discussion that focuses on doubt and faith, and that we can trust in God.
This is a recording of my sermon from Sunday, December 29, 2013 at Peakland United Methodist Church. The text was 1 John 4:7-21. This was during the Horizons Praise service.
On December 9, 1965 an animated Christmas special aired on CBS. Some network executives had already made the commitment to air it, but they only planned to air it that one time. Little did they know that the simple story of Charlie Brown searching for the meaning of Christmas would be the second most watched show that week (second only to the western Bonanza), much less a Christmas tradition.
They only planned to have it air once, but they didn’t think it was very good. It is a miracle that the special ever made it to the air anyway. Producer Lee Mendelson got a phone call explaining that Coco-Cola wanted to sponsor a Christmas special and accepted the offer, even though he didn’t have one. He called Charles Schultz and asked if he could have a story in a week. They pitched the Christmas special and it was accepted. They had six months to make the special, which is usually not enough time. But the team of Schultz, Mendelson, and Bill Melendez made it happen.