Below is Fr Vallee’s Christmas homily in its entirety.
St. John’s Gospel explains the meaning of Christmas with theological depth and breathtaking brevity: On this Christmas night, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” But pay attention here. The Incarnation takes place on many levels and has many different senses. The most obvious sense is the physical and historical sense–Jesus Christ was physically born in a manger at Bethlehem. But there is also a spiritual sense, a poetic sense, a symbolic sense, and even a literary sense of the Incarnation. In other words, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and likewise the Word becomes text and dwells among us.
I. Charlie Brown Christmas
Many years ago, 1972 to be exact, I was in the fifth grade at Holy Family parochial school in North Miami. When Christmas came around that year, we did an abbreviated version of “It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas.” I was cast in the all-important role of Linus, the blanket hugging philosopher. One of the priests I now work with said that it was perfect casting because, as I have gotten older, I have managed to trade in my actual security blanket for more subtle and invisible security blankets [I love, and I mean love, intellectual cheapshots meant to injure our fellow man where they are most vulnerable, all in good taste of course-JC]. In any event, there is one bit of text that I memorized for the play and it has stuck in my head ever since. You recall that Charlie Brown begins to feel very cynical about Christmas, that with all the commercialism and lights and stuff, he thinks we have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. Finally, he blurts out, “Good grief, Christmas is run by a big Eastern advertising syndicate, doesn’t any one know what Christmas is all about?”
II. Linus’ speech
Linus, that is me with my blanket, says “I can tell you what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. Lights please. And in the same country, shepherds, abiding in their fields and keeping watch over their flocks by night. And Lo! The angel of the Lord was upon them and the glory of God shown round about them and they were sore afraid. But the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be known, henceforth, unto all peoples. For born unto you, 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 ands lying in a manger. And suddenly with the angel, a great multitude of heavenly hosts, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.’ And that’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.”
III. Dual Sense of Incarnation: the Word becomes flesh and text
We celebrate this night the Incarnation of Jesus our Lord and God. The simplest sense of that Incarnation is summarized perfectly by the angel’s message to the shepherds. Our God took flesh and, out of love for us, was born in the manger at Bethlehem.
IV. Pray, Cherish, Memorize
But there are more complex and subtle senses of the Incarnation. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. But the Word also became text and dwells among us still. Jesus Christ is actually and physically present in the words of the Gospel. This Christmas Gospel should be prayed over, cherished, memorized even if you do not have to play Linus. Why? Plainly and simply because Jesus Christ, the Word and Son of the Father, took flesh in the sense of becoming text. Hence, he is here, precious and sacred in these words. He is in the text. But the text is only decipherable by prayer. Take this text…hold it dear, pray over it, even memorize it. Because Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior is alive and present in this text. Here, in your hearing, the Word once again becomes flesh and dwells among us.
God Bless one and all!