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Father Muench Says...

Then comes the joy


December 27, 2023

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

This Christmas was simply wonderful. Actually, every Christmas is great. I love Christmas. Personally, I think of the Christmas celebration beginning on the Advent afternoon and evening when the parish where I currently live (Diocese of Syracuse) celebrates the sacrament of reconciliation with personal confessions. In recent years, a day is designated by the bishop on which every parish in the diocese is to schedule a time for personal confessions. It has become known as “the light is on.” We even put out a television commercial to reach people.

The day is a good experience for me as a confessor. We can all take our time. The people have no reason to hurry – the priests will be available all day. This should be a calm and peaceful day for a sacramental confession. I hope the people realize they have plenty of time to prepare and celebrate the sacrament. No hurrying is necessary. I found it was a blessing to be able to take my time as we celebrated the sacrament.

I like to think most of the people were pleasantly surprised at how beneficial it was to take our time. I think they would realize they had the time to recognize the changes they could and should make in their lives. This is why this sacrament is a good opportunity on the road to becoming a saint.

The next great Christmas event is the decorating of the Church. Advent for us is meant to be a time of waiting – following the spirit of the Old Testament, waiting and preparing for the coming of the Messiah. So, we wait – no decorations, no Christmas carols – as we celebrate Advent. We all, especially the children, are totally surprised when we enter the Church for the Christmas Mass. The Church has been rather barren during Advent – just purple and such. Then comes the joy of all the decorations – the trees and flowers. There is still a thrill to the Christmas hymns; they never seem old. The manger scene holds our attention, reminding us of the Christmas story. You cannot fail to smile.

I know I continue to experience the enthusiasm and joy of celebrating Christmas Mass. We all know the story, so it is easy for us to find our place in it. We join in the journey of Mary and Joseph; we are there at the birth of the Lord Jesus. We are with the shepherds and the Magi.

I am certain you know how much I love to tell my Christmas story. I enjoy so much telling everyone about the day Susan and Paul invited me to the birth of their second child, Will. It was truly the most exciting day in my life. Each time I tell the story, I am taken back to that day.

People still ask me what prayers I said while I was there that day. I must admit that I really don’t remember saying any prayers at all. However, I now realize that the whole experience was a prayer. It certainly brought me to a closer relationship with the Lord Jesus. I found love – the love of my God – and that truly transformed me in that moment.

Each and every Christmas event was about love, about God’s love for us all. The sacrament of reconciliation unites us all to the Lord’s loving forgiveness of sin. Christmas Mass unites us with the Lord Jesus in a powerful and loving way. The Lord loves us – all of us – especially through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Our response must be one of gratitude. Our response must be “thank you, Lord. We need you always, especially as you come to us at Christmas time.”

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