BEFORE THE CROSS | Seven signs we are ready for Christmas

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

Father Joseph Post

Advent is a time of preparation for the Lord's coming again at Christmas and at the end of time. Although Advent is not as strict a penitential season as Lent, the Church does call us to pray, fast and do good works while we ready ourselves for the future joy of Christ's coming.

How do we know that our preparations have been successful? What are some of the signs of our being ready to once again welcome our Lord to our world and to our personal lives?

I'd like to suggest seven signs that we are ready for Christmas. If we do these things successfully, we can be confident that we will be prepared when Christ comes again:

1. Confession. Advent is a wonderful time to confess our sins and through the miracle of the sacrament of penance to receive God's forgiveness for anything -- and everything -- we have done to make ourselves unworthy of Him.

2. Mercy. Once we have experienced God's forgiveness, it's important for us to forgive those who have sinned against us. Those who are closest to us are often hardest to forgive. Nothing ruins more Christmases than deep-seated family hurts that remain unforgiven.

3. Communion. Celebrating Mass frequently during Advent allows us to be united with Christ in the holy Eucharist here and now, and this heightens our appreciation for His coming again at Christmas and at the end of time.

4. Hospitality. The same warm welcome that we extend to our Lord Jesus Christ should be given to our family members, our neighbors and even to strangers -- the poor, homeless and infirm. Jesus welcomed everyone, and He calls us to do the same.

5. Gratitude. During Advent we are called to thank God for the extraordinary gift-of-self that is the Incarnation. God so loved us that He gave us His only begotten Son. Are we sufficiently grateful for this miracle of God's grace and for all the gifts He has given us so abundantly?

6. Generosity. In imitation of God's abundant generosity, we have the opportunity to give ourselves to others. The time we share with family and friends; the talents we use for the building up of God's kingdom; and the treasure we give away for the benefit of those whose needs are far greater than ours -- all are powerful signs that we are good stewards who will be ready when Jesus comes again.

7. Joy. If we are faithful in doing the six things listed above, the anxious fears and heartaches that too often accompany this stressful time of year will be unable to rule us. If our preparation is genuine, we will experience the amazing joy and peace of Christmas. If we are people of mercy, hospitality, gratitude and generosity, surely God will forgive us our sins and enter our hearts and souls in a special way this Christmas!

Are you ready for Christ's coming again this Christmas? I hope you have made good use of this Advent season, but if you haven't, it's not too late. There's still time. Find a quiet moment to examine your conscience. Ask for the Lord's forgiveness as you open your heart to Him. Be merciful to others. Welcome others (even strangers and enemies) into your heart by praying for them and helping them if you can. Be grateful. Share generously. And allow the incredible joy of this holy season to carry you beyond the commercial Christmas holiday to the depth and wonder experienced by simple shepherds on that most holy night 2,000 years ago!

To be ready for Christmas, we have to set aside selfish and superficial things. With the help of God's grace, we have to shine the light of Christ into our dark and dreary world. And, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to let the love of Christ transform us -- and the world around us -- into people of peace and joy who are prepared to receive the Blessed Hope when He comes again!

Archbishop Carlson's weekly schedule

Monday, Dec. 16

11:30 a.m. Luncheon for retired priests, Archbishop’s residence

5:30 p.m. Vespers and dinner with Kenrick-Glennon seminarians, Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis/Archbishop’s residence

Tuesday, Dec. 17

3:45 p.m. Southside Deanery Advent priest reflection, St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Parish

6 p.m. Mass and dinner with Legatus, Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis and Coronado Ballroom

Thursday, Dec. 19

9:30 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s High School

11:30 a.m. Ministry Team Advisors meeting, Cardinal Rigali Center

2 p.m. Meeting with deans, Cardinal Rigali Center

4 p.m. Finance Council meeting, Cardinal Rigali Center

Friday, Dec. 20

10 a.m. Priest and deacon day, at Archbishop’s residence

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