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Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without television specials.

Hundreds of them have appeared since the small screen began to proliferate in American family rooms early in the 1950's.  

Some are made-to-order shows, such as the 20 Rankin-Bass claymation features between 1964 and 2001 (think Rudolph and The Little Drummer Boy). 

Then there are the celebrity-focused shows, usually rich with music, like those spotlighting John Denver, Kelly Clarkson, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Bob Hope (13 times), and Perry Como (an amazing 19 Christmas specials). 

The Power Rangers have starred in 10 holiday shows.  That's nothing compared to the Muppets, who have done the Christmas thing 26 times.

Animated "hosts" include Winnie the Pooh, the Flintstones, Mickey Mouse, Mr. Magoo, Garfield, My Little Pony, the Care Bears, the Berenstain Bears, Yogi Bear, and of course Dr. Seuss' bright green Grinch.  

Other Christmas specials are a bit harder to classify.

One-of-a-kind broadcasts revolve around Shining Times Station, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, He-Man and She-Ra, and Pinky and the Brain.

If the My Pillow Guy hosts a Christmas special ("And everyone in the stable got the best sleep of their lives!"), we may safely conclude we've gone a bridge too far.  

Does one made-for-TV Christmas special seem to rise above the rest?

Many would vote for A Charlie Brown Christmas, which debuted on CBS on December 9, 1965.

A few weeks beforehand, a lot of people were apprehensive.  The half-hour special still wasn’t finished.  Network executives feared a disaster.  Instead of a laugh track, there would be music.  And not the kind of music “regular" people listened to.  It would be jazz, of all things.
Not only that, the story clearly pivoted on an overtly religious statement.  Charlie Brown’s friend Linus would recite a passage from the Bible. 
Producer Lee Mendelson and director Bill Melendez both tried to talk Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, into rewriting the scene.  Did Americans really want to hear Scripture in prime time?  Schulz stood fast.  “If we don’t do it, who will?”
Schulz’ counter-cultural intuitions proved to be spot-on.  The show has now been broadcast 53 consecutive Decembers.
In the story, bumbling Charlie Brown falters in his efforts to direct a neighborhood Christmas play. Even Snoopy laughs derisively.  An exasperated Charlie asks, “Doesn’t anybody know what Christmas is all about?”
That’s when Linus steps forward.  He can tell Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about. 
From memory he recites the King James Version of Luke 2:8-14, the encounter of the angels with the shepherds just outside Bethlehem.
That’s when Schulz springs one more surprise.  It’s easy to overlook. 
At the very moment that Linus quotes the angel saying, “Fear not,” he lets go of his security blanket.  As any fan of Peanuts can tell you, this is just about the bravest thing Linus has ever done.  Check out the memorable scene for yourself.
So what’s your security blanket? 

What are you holding on to at all costs, that something you keep hoping is going to make your life safe and meaningful?
You know what it is.
Maybe it’s your savings account.  Or your reputation.  Or your kids’ accomplishments.  Or the fact that everyone remembered you at your high school reunion.  Or your dream that life simply has to turn out a certain way.
There's a reason "don't be afraid" is the most frequent command in the Bible.
Be brave this Christmas.  Choose to believe the angels.
Don’t be afraid.  Drop your security blanket.  Trust God instead. 

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

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Glenn McDonald is the Director of Mission Integration for the Ascension Ministry Service Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, a role in which he serves as the workplace mission leader for 900 associates in the healthcare industry.

Glenn is an ordained Presbyterian minister, has 33 years of congregational leadership experience, and is the author of eight books on discipleship and spiritual formation.  He and his wife enjoy living on a small farm.
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