Our Thanksgiving leftovers were still warm when my husband and I started pulling out the Christmas decorations last weekend. With only four amazingly short weeks between holidays, I am sure many of you can relate to our anxious excitement to get a jump-start on the to-do list. After an initial whirlwind of decorating the tree, setting up the manger, and hanging the stockings, I took a break and went for a walk.
There is a certain loop I follow on most of my walks. It winds through the woods, past a pond, into a neighborhood, and back again. Because I am a creature of habit, I usually walk the same direction on this route each time. On this particular day, I decided to live life a little more on the edge and traveled the opposite way. Daring, I know!
Have you noticed how doing things backwards or turning things upside down often brings a different perspective and teaches you something new? This walk was no exception. I came back with a fresh outlook about my walking route and about preparing for Christmas. I was ready to turn Christmas upside down.
What does turning Christmas upside down mean?
The usual preparations for Christmas include decorating, shopping, baking, wrapping, entertaining, mailing holiday greetings, etc. – done in an “orderly” fashion for each household, of course 😉 . When Christmas Eve arrives, many celebrate Jesus by going to church for an hour or so. Some will read the Bible story of Jesus’ birth. In comparison to everything else done in December, little time is dedicated to learning about Jesus until Christmas actually arrives.
Turning Christmas upside down means celebrating and learning about Jesus throughout the month instead of at the end of the month.
How can we benefit by turning Christmas upside down?
- We learn new things about Jesus.
Traveling the opposite way on my walk brought a changed perspective on my surroundings. For example, from a different vantage point I realized the huge, beautiful weeping willow tree I pass almost every day was no longer there – only a stump remained. I wondered if it had been gone a long time, and how I missed noticing the emptiness.
In a similar way, turning Christmas upside down helps us see things about Jesus we did not notice before. Reading Bible passages about his birth throughout the month brings ideas to mind that we are unable to take in all at once on Christmas Eve. Enjoying a new book about the meaning of Christmas or participating in an online Bible study provides learning and a break from holiday activity. Working on a Christmas service project lessens distractions by helping us focus on others. Or, simply carving out some time for prayer can bring us closer to knowing Jesus. All these things send us a different way than the norm.
Activities that help us see Jesus throughout the month deliver knowledge we did not even know we were missing.
- We become more aware of Jesus in everyday life.
I’ll fess up. Coming at the scenery of my walk in a different direction made me feel a little out of my element. Because the walk was not done in my natural pattern, I worried that I might miss the normal turns in the neighborhood. As a result, my brain jerked to attention and I became more aware of my surroundings.
Turning Christmas upside down also makes us feel uneasy. There are a million things to do besides focusing on Jesus, right? It feels more natural to get on with the shopping and the wrapping and the planning. But, if we change our route to include Jesus in each day, we begin to notice his love more during the month. We pay attention when our circumstances improve or we learn from them. We smile more and tell people we appreciate them. We thank our loved ones and really mean it. We notice how God is working for our good every day.
Heightening our awareness of Jesus naturally makes us more alert to his goodness in everything we do.
- We slow down and enjoy our holiday time.
Learning new things and becoming more aware on my walk caused me to slow down and enjoy myself more. While walking in the opposite direction, I was not lost in thought or on exercise autopilot. My environment captured my attention, and I found myself feeling grateful for that.
If the same logic applies, then learning new things about Jesus and becoming more aware of him in the midst of our preparations will also help us slow down and enjoy our holiday time more.
Taking time to learn and look for Jesus as we walk (don’t run) towards Christmas brings us more gratitude and peace.
So, I am almost finished with my decorating. Yesterday, I placed a snow globe on the table in the entry way. I love snow globes and the miniature magical lands inside them. Everything appears so pristine, orderly, and still while they sit right side up.
Looking at mine like this, I think it’s pretty, but hmm… also kind of boring. The real magic happens when we turn it upside down and shake things around a bit. I turn the globe upside down. There…that makes it more beautiful, more interesting.
I watch the snow swirl, and I smile. A lot of things in life look better after you turn them upside down.
A Prayer for Your December:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT
Blessed be your name above all the other things competing for our attention this holiday season. Thank you for the precious gift of your son, sent to offer us eternal life with you. Help us walk in a different direction towards Christmas this year. Bring us new opportunities to learn about Jesus and show us how we can serve you. Open our eyes to your joy in all the preparations we undertake. May we enjoy our walk with you this month, and be filled with the peace and gratitude that comes from spending time in your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
Resources to Help Turn your Christmas Upside Down
A Scriptured Life posts from the 2015 Christmas season: