Dangers of Christmas 2017: Dangers of Waiting

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 A few years ago the Huffington Post featured an article on the 12 dangers of Christmas.  The article focused on fire safety during the holiday season.  They covered everything from your Christmas tree drying out and catching the drapes on fire to burning down your home while preparing your roast beast. The article had me thinking, what if there were other dangers during Christmas?  What if, aside from falling off your roof while working on your light display and over roasting your chestnuts, there were hidden dangers during the season of advent that most of us overlook. So I decided to write about the dangers of Christmas we often ignore.

Now, a few years later, I have enlisted the help of some friends, colleagues, and noted theologians to share the dangers they see every year during Christmas.

Up next, Tommie Marshall.

We sat on the dock that overlooked Lake Taneycomo and took in the sunset. His arm was around my shoulders, trying to make sure I wasn’t too cold from the wind coming off the lake on that cool November night. We were waiting for our turn to clean the fish. I was finally going to get the chance to learn from the best of the best. Growing up, I was  always eager to learn, but it had always been a guy thing. Now, after twenty plus years, I was getting my chance. 

While waiting impatiently for my turn—it seemed to be taking forever—I remembered all the times I had watched my grandpa fillet a fish. Each step was playing in my mind like a slowed down replay of home videos. Out of fear of looking like a complete fool, I was studying stored memories to make sure I had some concept of what I was about to learn. It was then that I looked up and noticed the last bit of the sun was about to disappear over the lake; that’s when it hit me. Just as I had aged over the last twenty plus years, so had my grandpa, and I was aware that I might never get the chance to be fully present in the presence of my grandfather again, the man I was named after. 

I made a conscious decision to take advantage of the time I had during our waiting. I took in every detail of the final minutes of the sunset; I wanted to remember every word we spoke, even the details like how his shoes were worn on the outer edges from years of walking on his ankles because of his flat feet. The latter could be my future, too, since I not only got his name, but also those flat feet. As the dock creaked back and forth from the waves of boats coming in for the night, I knew I needed to take full advantage of the moments during the waiting, so I seared every moment into my memory.

For the Christian, Advent is the season in which believers recognize and connect to the ancient longing of those who hoped for a promise to be born in the form of a baby in a manger, while simultaneously remembering that we are still waiting for him to come again. 

I believe that one of the big dangers we face during this time of year is the fact we don’t know how to wait anymore. We no longer have to wait for a two-week news cycle to hear what political thing or tragedy has happened; we can get on our phones and find out within seconds. There is actually an app to order your coffee before you get to the coffee shop so you don’t have to wait in lines. We have become so accustomed to getting what we want as quickly as we want that we don’t know how to sit patiently in a doctor’s office anymore, so we complain if we have to wait even a minute past our scheduled appointment. How do we fully participate in Advent if we don’t know how to wait?

I believe we have to learn a new way to wait. We can’t sit idly with ourselves and wait on Jesus to come back so all can be made right, like so many before us have done. We have to learn to actively wait, to be fully present and engaged with our world, lamenting where we have failed and walking alongside those still oppressed by systems that have served as reminders that they are “less than.” I’ve never seen someone pick up a book and only read the last chapter. They start from the beginning, and it’s in the rising action of the middle that the story unfolds; they get drawn in and feel a connection to the characters. 

Our lives are no different. We can’t become so fixated on the end that we forget the importance and depth of the middle. I happen to think it’s in the middle, while we are present and engaged in our waiting, that we actually see the presence of God. I think sitting on the dock next to my grandfather taught me what Advent is really about; I wish it hadn’t taken almost 29 years.

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Tommie Marshell is a fierce mother hen, wife, and considers being socially awkward part of her life's calling with a passion for justice and progressive love. Look for her upcoming podcast: Backsliding: A Preacher's Daughter's Podcast where there are no dumb questions!