The Christmas Star


For as long as I can remember, my little hometown has celebrated Christmas by illuminating a huge star perched on the mountain above the downtown streets. The weeks leading up to Christmas are marked with the appearance of that star. Visible for miles, the star glows in the winter sky like a beacon signaling the season. Back in my college days, I’d come home for Christmas anticipating that star and it was always so comforting to see it there. In a way, it really made me feel like I was finally home.

The star at that first Christmas must have been an amazing sight. Maybe there’s a scientific explanation for it. Maybe not. What we know is that it was such a bright star, appearing so suddenly and giving so much light that astronomers in other countries saw it. Some of them even followed the star to Bethlehem where they found a Child. And whether they knew it or not, this Child was the true Light, the Light that calls each of us to come to Him.

Yet our world seems so very dark at times. If Christ truly IS the Light, then why us there war and famine, oppression and injustice? Why haven’t we been able to find and share that peace that Jesus spoke about? The answer lies within each one of us. In our hearts, where sins are born. Original sin has wounded us all and makes us prone to sin. In that sense, sin is our natural state and it’s only through the gift of God’s supernatural grace that we can overcome it. And we all know how often we fail. Or maybe we don’t. Maybe we’re a bit blind and deaf to the darkness we carry around inside us.

Advent is about the light of Christ—the Light that dispels the darkness of sin. The first two weeks of Advent are penitential weeks when the Church encourages us to repent and confess our sins. Most parishes have penance services in early December where the parish gathers together for prayer and Scripture readings before private, Sacramental confession with a priest. Before confession, we prepare ourselves through an examination of our consciences. Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal your sins to you. Catholics often review the Ten Commandments as a guide. Whatever Scripture or spiritual reading you use it’s important to be truly honest and thorough. When you do, you’ll be ready for confession.

And it’s in confession that you’ll have a personal encounter with the light of Christ. When Jesus instituted this Sacrament no one knew better than He did of our need for it. In His human life, Jesus witnessed all of the darkness of this sinful world. He saw injustice and oppression, murder and greed, self-righteousness and pain. He knew just how much we need reconciliation to His own Sacred Heart. When He appeared to his disciples in the Upper Room, they received the gift of the Holy Spirit and Christ spoke to them: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained”(John 20:23). That power, received through the Sacrament of Holy Orders to priests and bishops over the centuries, is present in confession today. Christ’s forgiving grace is the Light of that first Christmas star. His grace dispels the darkness of our sins. The light of His mercy and love gives us the strength to follow Him each day. Without His grace, the darkness has won.

Are you ready for the Christmas star? Are you ready for Christ’s light to illuminate the dark corners of your heart? Or do you have sins in need of forgiveness? Every time I see the star on the mountain above our little hometown I think of that first Christmas star. I wonder how it would have felt to see the Child, to be in His presence, to have His eyes look into mine. I want to be ready for that moment. I want my heart to be pure and full of the love and mercy that He offers me, and each of us, in confession. Advent is the time to prepare ourselves for meeting the Lord. The light of Christ is on the way.

“If you want peace on earth, go to confession.”


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Nikki Combs
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 00:54:33

    We are so blessed as Catholics to have the beautiful sacrament of confession!


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