We are beginning the 3rd Christmas season since we moved away from our Midwest life. The past two years we’ve made the long trek home to St. Louis for the holidays, but this year we’ve decided to stay in Sarasota. We feel a deep sense to build new Christmas traditions with our children in our new home; it’s a part of the transplant process we’ve yet to complete.
Other than the one time during our 10-year infertility journey when we left for Italy on Christmas afternoon, neither Tim nor I have ever celebrated the holidays entirely apart from family. We don’t know exactly what Christmas looks like outside of the context of parents, siblings, and cousins – the loud and boisterous family events that fill your hearts and tummies to overflowing.
If you know me at all, I’m sure you know what a painfully difficult decision this was for us to make. Even though I know it’s the right one, as the calendar turns to December my heart has turned sad.
I’ve thought about incorporating Advent into our tradition for several years now, even before our move to Florida. It was Ann Voskamp who inspired my curiosity about this liturgical practice, that for whatever reason had never become part of our Christian tradition. Last year I personally walked through Dietrich Bonheoffer’s God is in the Manger each day of the Advent season. Probably not coincidentally either, last year our pastor taught on Advent each Sunday of December. As we are seeking new traditions for our repurposed lives, it just seems appropriate to restore the observation of Advent now.
I am just a beginner in the habit of Advent. Today we start week one and begin to learn about the importance and the helplessness of waiting, a central theme of Advent. That’s right where we are as a family in so many, many ways. Ann’s beautiful book, The Wonder of the Greatest Gift, will also guide us through this new journey every day until Christmas.
I’m sure we will continue our traditions of matching PJs, Christmas family newsletter & photos, Grandma’s drip candle, creating elaborate holiday cookies, and Christmas morning surprises and brunch, but we have a large hole to fill without the extended family around us helping to shape the holiday. I’m not entirely sure what this part of all we’ve ever known will look once we get to the other side of December. However, Advent is about waiting, mystery, redemption, and the revelation of the incarnation. I suspect my heavenly Father will help us find all the answers we need as we journey through this season with eyes focused on Him in a new way.
Ann wrote in one of her Advent blog posts last year, “there’s no performing Christmas, producing Christmas, or perfecting Christmas. There is resting in Christmas. So, that is what we are going to do. Rest in Christmas. Rest in worship. Rest in the wonder of this season in a whole new way.
 Ann Voskamp. 12/22/16. “when you’re weary & just want to prepare your heart for Christmas – & a bit of Hope”. http://annvoskamp.com/2016/12/when-youre-weary-just-want-to-prepare-your-heart-for-christmas/