The Week 15 guide for the Online Retreat in Everyday Life is here.

Four years ago, I spent Advent preparing for a baby of my own, and it gave me an appreciation for the Nativity that I was never able to have before. As I lugged myself around, with all the modern conveniences, I would think – almost accidentally – of how it must have been for Mary and Joseph. I know how my husband was with the birth of our first child – during early labor, on the drive to the hospital, while the baby was being born. I remember looking at him after our daughter was born, and seeing a new man. He had tears in his eyes and amazement all over his face. He couldn’t talk.

That’s the image that kept coming to my mind this week as I contemplated Jesus’ birth: my husband’s face after the birth of our children. Birth is a miracle, and wonder is the natural response. Birth changes those who partake. Mary was different after she gave birth to Jesus, and so was Joseph.

We don’t hear about that in Scripture – there just wasn’t time, in Scripture, to cover all the details I would have liked to have known! – but this week, we’re encouraged to use our imaginations as we read those familiar passages. Let go of the familiarity for a moment. The guide reminds us, “We know the story well, but each year, each time we pray, the story becomes more and more our own. This is God telling us who we are and what He thinks of us. The hard part of this contemplation is familiarity. By being calm, this silent night, our prayer will bring us anew the brightness which the shepherds had heard.”

This week, in our retreat and in real life, a Birth is approaching. We have been preparing, and the time is almost here. Are we ready?

May the joy of the Child Jesus fill your celebrations this week.