I was in sixth grade and my sister was in ninth when my family moved from northeastern Ohio to Miami, Florida. We moved in December, just in time for Christmas. And everything in Miami was just wrong.
They put Christmas lights on palm trees. The advertising flyers showed Santa in shorts. The youth Christmas party was a pool party. It was just wrong.
That was the year my sister and I did something highly unusual: we united for a common cause. We were not going to tolerate that mangy old artificial tree my grandmother had given to us when she was tired of it. After all, our parents had moved us to the very end of the earth, and we would never again have a white Christmas—unless you counted the sand. And that was just wrong.
We put our collective feet down, and with reluctance our parents agreed to purchase a live tree. The only problem with live Christmas trees in Miami is that they aren’t exactly local, which makes them very expensive. I can still remember the look on my parents’ faces when they saw the price. $49.99 for a Christmas tree? This was 1975. According to the inflation calculator I found, that’s $210.21 today. We were a one-income family. Besides, when my dad was growing up on a farm in West Virginia, he used to just go into the woods and shoot one. $49.99 for a Christmas tree? That was just wrong.
Although money was tight, my parents knew what their daughters needed. Our worlds had been turned upside down. Christmas felt upside down. If having a live tree would make it better, they would find a way to buy us a live tree.
Subsequent years in Miami were easier than that first year, but Christmas always felt weird. To me, it always felt like an upside down Christmas.
In recent years, upside down Christmases became something of a fashion trend … or at least upside down Christmas trees did. Have you seen them? The upside down Christmas trees? They are designed to be stood or hung upside down. The advantages are that ornaments show better, the tree fits better in small spaces, and there’s more room under the tree for presents. An article I read online said they’re all the rage this year—although the article was undated so I have no idea what year “this year” might have been.
Upside down Christmas trees. My apologies to anybody who has one, but that’s just wrong.
But, in a strange way, they are kind of appropriate, I guess . . . because the Christmas story is all about turning things upside down.
A young teenage girl is entrusted with heaven’s greatest gift.
A young man marries her even though his religion tells him to stone her.
The King of Kings is born in a barn.
The heavenly birth announcement goes not to the noble and elite but to shepherds, the lowliest of the low (not to mention the stinkiest of the stinky).
By entering human history in this way, God identified with the poor, the powerless, and the oppressed. And to many people, that was just wrong.
To many people today, that’s still wrong, but God is still doing it. God still welcomes the poor, the powerless, and the oppressed. And we darn well better, too, if we intend to do that whole “following in the ways of Jesus” thing.
Yes, it’s a world turned upside down. But if we do it we just might hear an angel choir sing of peace on earth, good will to all.