The tone changes in these readings. Our Advent gift nears and our waiting gives way to dreams of impending celebrations. Our lives mirror Mary and Joseph’s who hurriedly made ready, travelled from afar, begged shelter for nights of rest to await the birth. We ready a house, travel to visit family, welcome guests, struggle when plans wither in the face of unexpected challenges that sap energy and hope.

Four Advent Sundays have passed, four candles are lit, this birth days away, the excitement palpable. All is ready, still we wait.

Hannah gave thanks for Samuel’s birth. Mary’s words are joyful, proclaiming the greatness of the child she carries, this graced life received through God and Spirit. We lowly servants are filled as we welcome gifts of joy, mercy, compassion, and maybe an unexpected miracle. The season is here, our spirits rejoice as again we celebrate God’s greatness and salvation.

—Mary Burke-Peterson  is a parishioner at St. Nicholas Church, Evanston, an active volunteer in the Ignatian Spirituality Project, and a graduate student at Institute for Pastoral Studies at Loyola University.