Meaning of Christmas

(December 25, 2020)

Bottom line: That is the meaning of Christmas: the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. Let's go with the shepherds to Bethlehem to adore Jesus.

Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! What does Christmas mean? Let's start at the beginning. St. John tells us, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." C.S. Lewis describes God as "the rock bottom, irreducible Fact on which all other facts depend". John tells us that God is never alone. With him is the Word who is also God.

John goes on to state, "All things came to be through him (the Word), and without him nothing came to be." What does John mean when he says all things came to be through the Word? Well, think about the ordinary meaning of "word". Word is intelligence, concept, information. You may have read that once the scientists got the coronavirus genome sequence back in January, it took them only 48 hours to design the actual vaccine. When you have the right information, the right concept, the right word, things go fast. Similarly, creation begins with the Word - not some random act.

John continues: "What came to be through him (the Word) was life, and this life was the light of the human race". The Word not only creates and orders the universe. He brings forth life and human souls with our capacity to reason, to know the truth and to discern good and evil. Shakespeare says, "What a piece of work is man". But, you know, as wonderful as the human person is, we have a fatal flaw. We often prefer darkness to the light. For that reason we need a savior. So God himself enters directly into our creation. As John says,

"And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father's only Son,
full of grace and truth."

That's what we celebrate tonight: the Word becomes flesh, God becomes man. How do we respond?

We join the angels who sing, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests". During Advent - like in Lent - we refrain from the Gloria. It's a form of fasting. No one can enjoy a meal if he comes to the table with a full stomach. He has to do some fasting. Just so, during Advent and Lent, we fast from the Gloria so we can savor its meaning when Christmas and Easter arrive.

To savor the meaning of Christmas we need to follow Mary's example. "Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." During the pandemic we should have more time for prayer, for reflecting on the mysteries of Jesus. That didn't always happen. Rather than picking up their Bible or rosary, many turned to Netflix and other diversions. Not bad in themselves, but they can take over. Some resisted. A young man in our parish told me he decided to not turn to his iPhone until at least an hour after he wakes - so he can devote time to prayer.

We will hear more about Mary's example of contemplation next Friday on New Year's which is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. Before that, on Holy Family Sunday we will see two saintly seniors: Simeon and Anna who spent their lives in prayer and were blessed to contemplate the infant Jesus - the Word made Flesh.

But this evening we take the example of the shepherds. They said, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place". Bethlehem means "house of bread". Jesus humbled himself to become a helpless babe. In the Mass he humbles himself even more to become bread. That is the meaning of Christmas: the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. Let's go with the shepherds to Bethlehem to adore Jesus:

Oh, Come let us adore him,
Oh, Come, let us adore him.
Oh, come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord. Amen.


Spanish Version (Word document)

From the archives (Christmas homilies):

2018: Not by Any Righteous Deeds
2017: Exchange of Gifts
2016: Long Walk - Part of Gift
2015: A New Beginning
2014: There is More
2013: Forgiving God
2012: Why Jesus Was Born
2011: The Gift of Freedom
2010: Let Him Come In
2009: When We Were Gone Astray
2008: The Tiny Footsteps of Jesus
2007: No More Fear and Hiding
2006: That Sacred Jest
2005: An Ivory Horn
2004: A Christmas Poem
2003: The Weakness of God
2002: The Word
2001: The Abundance of God
2000: I Am One of You Now
1999: Bigger on the Inside
1998: How to Receive a Gift
1997: Someone is Knocking at the Door
1996: The Gift We All Desire

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.

Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)

Parish Picture Album


MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru