Bill Melendez tried to talk Charles M. Schulz out of using Biblical references (especially Linus's speech) in this special. Schulz reportedly won him over by saying, "If we don't do it, who will?" As it turned out, Linus' recitation was hailed as one of the most powerful moments in the highly acclaimed special.
When viewing the rough cut of the show, both Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson were convinced that they had a flop on their hands. After it premiered, they were happily surprised and shocked at the high ratings and excellent reviews that the show received. Today, the show remains the second longest-running Christmas special on US network television (the 1964 Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer premiered one year earlier and is still broadcast every year on US network television).