For almost as long as I can remember celebrating Christmas, I remember Advent celebrations punctuating the holiday hubbub and family rituals. Drew and I made Advent a focus of our first year of marriage and have kept up the ritual of lighting a candle and doing some sort of reading and reflecting every night during Advent as our family has grown. This year’s Advent season was powerful and weighty for me and our family.

Making christmas cookies on a snow day!

The joy of our young children entering into God’s great story with questions and ideas of their own, the blessing of gazing at a brand new baby on my lap in the candlelight, and the familiarity of the ritual that slows and centers us on Jesus were meaningful as I would have expected. Then there was the chaos of celebrating “Christmas” that gets in the way of eating dinner together and “doing Advent”  as we had busy nights away from home. And then, unbelievably, there was the tragedy that struck our country, the world, and our family on December 14th that made all things Advent confusing, important, urgent, and difficult.

At Jacob’s Well, the Advent theme this year is “Christ our Peace”. The messages were powerful and prepositional: Peace within, Peace between, Peace among, Peace on Earth. Week 1, Peace Within, proclaimed that Christ’s Peace is not the absence of chaos, stress, pain, war, suffering, but peace right in the midst of the most chaotic experiences. Centering prayers and deep breaths helped me as I would get overwhelmed by work, the dishes, kids, and Christmas for some reason by 8:45 in the morning. Ahhhhhh…

Yesterday, Peace ON earth brought Tim’s message of Christ’s coming in the second Advent to make all things right on earth, to reclaim the brokenness, to finally and completely overpower the darkness, and heal the hurting. The refrains of songs all season affirmed Jesus’ mission is healing, wholeness and justice, a kingly reign that is good and pure and loving- lifting up the lowly, helping the needy, and convicting and changing the mighty. Power and prosperity will be redefined.

Peaceful altar at Jacob’s Well

Tim said yesterday we as modern people as “Why?” in the midst of tragedy and suffering.  We seek answers that we might regain some control that feels so lost in the wake of difficult and shocking experiences. The ancient people didn’t ask why but “How long?”– there was a conviction that whatever struggle befell them in the present, would find an end sometime in the future. They held onto hope.

Indeed, this is our Christian Advent. Not just looking back at Jesus’ incarnation as a vulnerable baby- coming as Immanuel, GOD WITH US, but also the Advent of Jesus coming again- the Advent of the full reign of God on earth. The final and complete setting right of all that has gone so horribly wrong. And in the meantime (now, between the 2 Advents), we hold onto hope that Jesus is Immanuel, Peace right here with us, in ways we can’t explain or understand. And if we are faithful, we become Christ’s peace for the people and communities we can touch.

So there’s been Advent and there’s been entitlement refrains for me this season. I drove to meet Drew at his office for a mid-week date last week and looked over to see the woman in the car next to me raising her hands and snarling her face in disgust at me. I couldn’t think of my offense but had obviously frustrated this woman. I know because I’ve done the same thing this month- driven entitled. “Hi, my name is Lindsey Osborne and I am an aggressive driver.” Admitting you have a problem is step 1 right? I often think I should be able to drive at the speed I’d like in the lane I’d like and turn right on red as often as I’d like. Especially because it’s Christmas and I’m shopping with an infant and I need to get going. Motor vehicle entitlement.

The Sandy Hook tragedy has raised a chorus of debates and opinions about our right to own and bear arms. The right to buy a gun, lots of guns, have a gun at home or take a gun out and about, is a right people feel very entitled to. Trying to control people’s rights has many people on the defensive. Constitutional entitlement.

One of our kids said at the beginning of our Advent reading one night last week, “I don’t even like Advent.” We were surprised and asked for more explanation. “I don’t like it until we can light the Christ candle,” they explained. Partially for shock value and attention perhaps, a usually agreeable child speaks of Advent impatience- wanting the whole and finished product sooner- without the waiting. Maybe also, our kids understand the urgency of Christ coming and want him NOW. Either way, Advent entitlement.

Yesterday, as I ruminated on the sermon and enjoyed a Christmas gathering with my family, I kept thinking of entitlement. We feel entitled to our Christmas celebrations, our time off, and our yummy food. All things I’m all for. We are also called to lay down our entitlement as we follow the baby who came in humility, without the slightest hint of entitlement, as God among and with us. A weak and vulnerable baby, a completely human manifestation of God coming to us- demanding not to be served but to serve, and to love to heights and depths and lengths and widths never before experienced.

It think it’s grip v. grasp. If I live entitled, I want control, I grip onto what I want, need, see, and need to do. I grip what I already own. If I let go of my tight grip and instead grasp– I’m loosing control, I’m becoming vulnerable- acknowledging my weakness and my need for a Savior, for One to call me to live outside of myself. I’m grasping- lunging, reaching, yearning to touch the Holy Mystery of Christ here with us, Christ sustaining and sending us. Grasping acknowledges my desperation for something I can’t get on my own. Gripping says I have already obtained and I will not let go.

Another Advent occurrence around our house was one of our kids saying to me at bedtime that they had prayed earlier that day while going poopy. “Oh,” I said, “You prayed that God would help you go poopy?” (Toileting has long been a struggle in our home- perhaps Oakley will have an easier go at going?!). “No,” they said, “I prayed that God would help me stop doing bad actions.” It was complete genuinity (I made up that word- spell check will have nothing of it).  Seeking God’s strength for making better decisions, for creating peace not pain, this child was graspingfor the One who constantly remakes us, calls us to change and gives us the power to do so.

Kicking in his candy cane suit

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m excited to go to church, be with family on Google connect, Facetime and face to face in a family room today. I can’t wait to watch my kids open and enjoy presents. I also hope to hold onto Christ’s peace and power in the middle of it all. Laying down my entitlement in little ways all day and grasping for the wonder of this event we celebrate: God coming here in as unexpected of a way as anyone could have ever guessed for comfort, for peace, for change. I can’t wait, but will. I don’t understand it all but walk in feeble faith. I am blessed to be a blessing.

Merry Christmas!!!









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