Lutheran and Catholic churches in Switzerland and Germany are planning for people to celebrate religious…
As Christmas nears, remember to prepare — and rejoice
There is so much to love about our Catholic faith, but one thing I’m appreciating more as I grow older is the Church’s understanding that there are certain universal truths. At the top is that God is the creator of all and that Jesus, his son, is truly God and truly man. Mary was conceived without sin. There is a heaven and a hell.
There are other truths that vary in significance, of course: The earth is round; fall is superior to any other season; the end of the toilet paper roll goes on top.
As the holidays approach, one universal truth that we can all appreciate is that pop-in visits are never OK, especially to homes with several young kids and two working parents. Unless we know that someone is coming over, we live in a disaster area. Laundry is everywhere. It’s like leaves in the fall — we need a rake to gather up all of the discarded, inside-out socks lying around. However, when we know someone is coming over, we begin barking orders at our children to quickly get everything put in its place and swept clean. Heaven forbid our friends or neighbors see the mess and clutter.
As Christmas approaches, we need to ask ourselves: Do we prepare as thoroughly for the coming of Christ? The answer — at our house, anyway — is a resounding no. But there is still time.
In the week leading up to Advent, my wife and I realized how disheveled we had allowed our interior castles to become. Generally, we go to confession once a month, but time had gotten away from us this fall, and the sins were piling up like dirty dishes in the sink.
So on a cold, late-November Saturday morning, we piled the kids into the van and drove to our usual confession spot. It was near the end of the allotted time for confession, and the church was dark and almost empty. When it was my turn, I sat face to face with an excellent priest from the parish — a gentle, soft-spoken man from Africa. I told him my sins, most of which he had heard from me before. I emphasized to him that I’d grown irrationally irritated by my kids. I’m always busy, always working, and the decibel level in our house constantly hovers between an airport runway and a European football match. A peaceful house, ours is not.
Of all my sins, this wise priest picked up on this one that weighed heaviest. He told me, essentially, that I need to see my wife and children as the gifts that they are — and that I must treat them as such. Focus less on the chaos and more on the joy that they bring to my life and our home, he said. Rejoice in them.
I walked out of the confessional feeling uplifted. I held the door open for the next soul and took my place in a nearby pew, a few rows behind my beloved son, who knelt quietly and reverently.
After my penance was complete, I lingered a little while and looked around, appreciating the quietness of the church on that cold November morning. In front of me and to my left was a statue of Mary, arms hanging by her side with her hands open and inviting. On the other side of the church, Joseph stood silent and strong. Through it all, a group of older women quietly prayed the Stations of the Cross: We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
Snow fell softly as I left the church and crossed the parking lot. I climbed into the warm van and adjusted my rearview mirror to get a glimpse of the five blessings behind me. With our souls swept clean, we drove back home to continue to prepare.
Christ is coming, and there are many reasons to rejoice.
Scott Warden is managing editor of Our Sunday Visitor.