Dear Atticus, Advent this year

Our Advent book

That is our favorite Advent book, and we highly recommend it. The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder.

Dear Atticus,

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent, the time the church uses to prepare for the Christmas holiday. For the next few weeks, we will sing songs like “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” We will light the candles in the Advent wreath and we will take time to think about the Incarnation. For our family, preparing for Christmas this year seems almost secondary to preparing for your arrival, which will probably (hopefully) be about a week later. (But feel free to come at any time. I am just about ready to be done with this part.) I sort of asked your dad if maybe he would want to consider going without a Christmas tree this year. And I was totally shot down. I am not sure who is going to take our tree down, because I am making no promises about my ability to do anything like that. Getting ours up was hard enough.

When we first got married, having kids seemed inevitable, so we tried to create traditions with a larger family in mind. We have an Advent book that we always read, and your dad and I like to exchange ornaments. Now that we are out of working retail, we try to use December to spend time together as a family. We go to Candlefest and concerts and plays and try to soak in the Christmas experience. I have come to believe that preparing for Christmas and Easter is at least as important as celebrating the holidays themselves, so your dad and I try to take time during Advent and Lent to reflect. We have gotten used to doing those things by ourselves, but we are looking forward to including you in our Advent celebrations starting next year.

Though I am both anxious for Christmas to get here and a little bit terrified at what that means, I have been trying to take time to prepare my heart for the coming of Jesus. I have been reading some old favorites, reminding myself of what the love of God means for me as a person who often feels inadequate and discouraged, who tries to believe but struggles to feel included. I am a thinker. Your dad is the feeler in this family. I will be interested to see which you are. I don’t think I know what it means to be seized by the power of a great affection, but Christmas and Advent are as close as I get to understanding what that feels like. From time to time, I catch a glimpse of what it means, that Jesus lovingly humbled himself and came to earth as a baby. That love sometimes seems so far away, but at Christmas I almost feel as if I could understand it.

I have thought a lot about Mary the past few months, what it must have been like for her. Being pregnant is scary enough without the situation she found herself in. I asked her to pray for me when we had so much bleeding early on. I have thought about her as I first began to feel you move inside of me, as we told friends and family and experienced their excitement rather than disbelief or skepticism. These days, you and I are both getting pretty uncomfortable, and I am thankful that we don’t have to ride anywhere on a donkey. Though Joseph came to believe that what Mary said was true, she must have still felt so alone in her experiences. Your dad and I have been lucky to have so many people helping us get ready for you. Though the whole world was waiting expectantly for the savior, I feel sure now that Mary was the one waiting most expectantly of all.

I should have known this from years of experiencing Advent, but it took me a while to realize how much I needed to prepare my heart for your coming. I have learned some things about waiting over the past eight months, about the beauty of moving past fear and uncertainty into active preparation. Your dad and I have worked hard to make decisions for your future. He took the lead when I was overwhelmed by the crib choices, and I have, for the most part, handled the registry information. We have had to step into the unknown again and again, asking difficult questions and feeling foolish. Of course we know that those things are good preparations for being parents, because we expect that we will feel overwhelmed and confused as we try to make good choices for you and teach you to do the same for yourself. Learning how to prepare for you has helped us feel as if you are really coming, as if we might be ready for you after all. I had to stop avoiding the things I was so afraid of so that you would have a place to come home to. Moving past the fear helped me learn how to give you a place in my heart.

As we spend our Advent time opening our hearts to the love of God in the word made flesh, we know that we will be continuing to learn how to open our hearts to you. We are close to the end now, waiting expectantly for your arrival.


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