I watched it growing up and loved it.

I watched it with our four young’uns while they were still young’uns, and loved it even more.

I still watch it ... and have come to appreciate and love it more with each passing year ... my favorite Christmas TV show of all time, a cartoon that first aired in 1965, the year I turned nine.

In all the Christmas seasons that have gone by, I have not missed one single year of watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

The 30-minute Charles Shultz masterpiece tells the Christmas story in an unashamedly Christian way.

Maybe you have seen it, but if not, let me walk you through it. This is entirely by memory so I will paraphrase a lot, but maybe I won’t violate any copyright laws by doing so ... and hopefully the Peanuts® gang won’t mind!

The show opens with friendless, depressed loser Charlie Brown checking his mailbox to see if someone — anyone — cared enough to send him a Christmas card.

“Helloooo in there!” Charlie says, peering into the empty, echoing receptacle, devoid of even one piece of junk mail. Turning to blanket-toting Linus, Charlie laments that he knows no one likes him and that holidays only seem to make it worse.

His little sister, Sally, asks him to help her write a letter to Santa. After reciting a lengthy list of things she wants — complete with sizes and colors, and an exhortation for St. Nick to “send as many as possible”! — she ends by saying, “If this seems to complicate things, just send money ... how about tens and twenties?”

Charlie screams in annoyance, throwing pen and paper into the air and moves on to Lucy’s “Psychiatric Advice” booth.

After relieving Charlie Brown of a nickel and celebrating how much she loves the sound of “cold hard cash” clinking in her payment can, Lucy decides that what Charlie needs is involvement.

The children are working on a Christmas play and need a director and since Charlie obviously has time on his hands, well …

“Me?!!?” an overwhelmed and grateful Charlie Brown beams.

That night, he shows up at rehearsal ready to take charge. Trouble is, he is soooooo ready to take charge that the cast immediately looks for a way to get rid of him. Lucy tells him to take Linus and go find a Christmas tree for the ‘set’.

“Do something RIGHT for a change, Charlie Brown!” rings in his ears as they head out into the cold, starry night.

Seeing searchlights criss-crossing the sky in the distance, the boys decide that’s where a tree could be found. There, they wander through the sales lot, dominated by an assortment of artificial, modernistic, stainless steel models ... even one painted pink.

“Fannntastic!” Charlie Brown mutters, shaking his head is disbelief. But then, in a dark corner, he sees the tree … a scraggly little pine that’s not much more than a dying twig, whose few remaining needles fall to the ground even as the boys watch.

“This tree needs me,” Charlie says.

“I don’t know, Charlie Brown,” a skeptical and fearful Linus warns, knowing full well they will face the wrath of Lucy when they show up at the play with the pitiful little sapling.

Undeterred, Charlie picks up the tree and heads back, only to meet with scorn and ridicule when he proudly places the tree in front of the cast.

“Charlie Brown, you’re such a blockhead!” they scream.

In despair, Charlie throws up his hands.

“Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?” he pleads.

Up steps little blanket-toting. thumb-sucking Linus.

“Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about,” Linus says, and walks on stage into the spotlight.

“And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, an angel of the Lord appeared before them and they were sore afraid. But the angel said to 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 Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you, you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, laying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God and saying, ‘glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men.”

Linus finishes reciting Dr. Luke’s timeless verses and walks offstage to where the children are standing.

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,” Linus says.

Still down in the dumps, Charlie picks up the tree and heads home. On the way he passes Snoopy’s doghouse, decorated to the rooftop with flashy lights and bearing a “First Place” ribbon in a Christmas Lights and Display contest.

Disgusted, Charlie picks up an ornament that has fallen off the doghouse and hangs it on his tree. The weight of the single ball bends the limb to the ground and even more needles shed.

Charlie Brown walks away, heartbroken, head hung low.

About that time the other children walk up and gather around the tree, feeling guilty and remorseful about their mean-spirited attitude.

“It’s not such a bad tree,” Linus points out to the others, wrapping his treasured blanket around the trunk. “All it needs is a little love.”

Grabbing ornaments off Snoopy’s glaringly illuminated doghouse, they swirl around the tree.

About that time Charlie walks up.

“What’s going on?” he asks.

The children step back to reveal a full, glowing, beautifully decorated tree.

“MERRY CHRISTMAS, CHARLIE BROWN!” they shout, as all join hands in singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

If you’ve never seen it or if, like me, you’ve seen it 50+ times, you should watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with your family because the message conveyed in this classic cartoon is as real and as spiritual as it gets.

In spite of all of the secularistic, atheistic, anti-religious schemes and efforts to de-Christianize this holy, happy time of the year — as little blanket-toting Linus so eloquently reminds us — may we never, ever forget that the birth of the Christ Child really is what Christmas is all about.

THANK YOU, Charles Shultz, for allowing the Peanuts gang to remind us all over again of that eternal truth, and Merry CHRISTmas everyone!