It's not often that total and utter silence can count as a CMOA, but the reaction by the cast, who had been wrapped up in the commercialism of the season, after Linus gives his sermon is an almost physical entity.
"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
There is the powerful scene when Linus gives his recitation of the Shepherds' vision of the angels' announcement of Jesus' birth. The scene has a moving power that rivets you to the screen regardless of your beliefs, regardless of the fact it's a Talking Heads scene.
This is also Charles Schulz' own Moment of Awesome, because he put his foot down when Executive Meddling kicked in and said that if he couldn't have that part in the special, he would not allow it to be aired.
It's even more awesome in the eyes of anyone who reads the Peanuts comics, and therefore knows that Linus has crippling Stage Fright and Lucy, every holiday season, without fail, signs him up to perform in front of the PTA, and then proceeds to drag him there under protest. He once spent an entire week sitting in a tree to avoid reciting publicly, and yet seeing Charlie Brown in such a state of despair makes him drop all that without a second thought.
Linus showing off his Improbable Aiming Skills by using his blanket as a sling for throwing snowballs (a scene that was cut from a lot of reruns, and only recently appeared on the DVD and in the ABC cut).
In a meta sense, the sheer staying power of this masterpiece is pretty awesome, especially when you consider that CBS thought the special would flop hard. The choppy, sloppy animation has actually become beloved and warmly imitated over the years.
Schulz had to fight hard to use child actors instead of adults, which was pretty gutsy considering only three of the kids -– the voices for Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy -– had any acting experience (The girl who voiced Sally couldn't even read yet!) The CBS execs tried to force Schulz to add a laugh track, but he point-blank refused. He had to lobby hard for the inclusion of Vince Guaraldi's jazz soundtrack over a more traditional one, and the decision to include jazz would be a fateful one (Seriously, can you imagine Peanuts today without jazz?). And on top of everything else, the execs were ready to cut the special altogether if Schulz didn't nix Linus's now-iconic recitation of Jesus's birth from the KJV translation of Luke. Schulz called their bluff and stood firm.
In the end, the special paid off in a big way: Half of all the US TV audience tuned into the first broadcast, the special won a freaking PEABODY award, and it's run for 50 straight Christmases and counting. Not bad at all.
Also meta, Charles Schulz's brief acceptance speech when it won an Emmy.
Charlie Brown is not used to winning, so we thank you.