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Christmas: Upside Down Christmas Luke 1:47-55

By William Willimon
We spent much of last summer "Down Under" in Australia and New Zealand. Of course, in New Zealand, "down under" is up, since, when you're in New Zealand, you're up and we, on the wrong side of the world, are down. I said I spent summer there -- July and August -- but there, July and August are the dead of winter, not summer. There, people in the cold south, speak of the conservatism of the tropical "deep north."

It's all very upside down.

Down there, in New Zealand, or up there, or wherever, thumbing through their church's new hymnal, I discovered a Christmas carol, Upside Down Christmas. In New Zealand, Christmas is the middle of their summer. Christmas is the day everyone goes to the beach. You can't sing, In the Bleak Midwinter lying on a bright beach in Auckland. Listen to Carol our Christmas.

Carol our Christmas, an upside down Christmas;

snow is not falling and trees are not bare.

Carol the summer, and welcome the Christ Child,

warm in our sunshine and sweetness of air.

Carol our Christmas, an upside down Christmas

snow is not falling and trees are not bare.

Carol the summer, and welcome the Christ Child,

warm in our sunshine and sweetness of air.

Sign of the gold and the green and the sparkle,

water and river and lure of the beach.

Sing in the happiness of open spaces,

sing a nativity summer can reach!

Shepherds and musterers move over hillsides,

finding, not angels, but sheep to be shorn;

wise ones make journeys whatever the season,

searching for signs of the truth to be born.

Right side up Christmas belongs to the universe,

made in the moment a woman give birth;

hope is the Jesus gift, love is the offering,

everywhere, anywhere here on the earth.1

Odd, we come to Christmas thinking of Christmas as the time that sets everything right. Christmas is the time to come home, to return to that time in our memories when all was warm, and good and right, when everything that's come upside down in our lives is set, at least for a couple of days in December, right side up.

Yet in the Bible, Christmas was that time when everything was turned upside down. It wasn't about a loving, family-value mother caring for a conventional child. It was about Mary, an unwed mother, expectant in a most unconventional, upside down way. The message came not through the official, governmentally sanctioned communication channels; it was delivered in song by angels. The good news came not to the learned and the powerful; shepherds working the night shift first got the gospel. Not to the biblical scholars poring over the sacred texts in Jerusalem; but to Magi, Gentile outsiders, pagan astrologers, appeared the star to outsiders rather than insiders. The Babe whose birth we sing lay in a cattle feed trough, not an expensive pram.

When Mary got the news from the angel, telling her that she was going to have a baby, Immanuel, Messiah to bless the world, she sang a Christmas carol. Listen to what Mary sang. It's called, "An Upside Down Christmas:"

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