According to projected forecasts this is not the year to sing Irving Berlin’s song:
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones I used to know,
but this is the time for “dreaming of a ‘topsy-turvy’ Christmas” that is very much like the one of long ago.
The similarity began late last Tuesday when a group using our Hendricks Room reported a leak in the Ladies Room causing the floor to be covered with fresh water...easily mopped up, I thought. And so, I asked Charlie McCann if he could take care of it as he made his nightly rounds. That was when he discovered water had run down from Hendricks Room into a Ground floor room, on into the heater room.
Our fire company had people here immediately with a phone number of the contractor to call, and I, in turn, informed our insurance company, all in less than an hour of the discovery. An hour and one-half later, 12:45 AM Wednesday, a team arrived and, together, we began the work of spreading water-soaked papers from the RSVP office on tables in the Freeland Lounge and carrying out electronic equipment, and furniture.
Then the blowers were set up, the affected area was sealed off, and thus began a present-day “dreaming of a ‘topsy-turvy’ Christmas” that made the original one of long ago more real.
It wasn’t water but a political system that was flooding the Roman empire with debts, that prompted the Emperor to call for a census, so the head of every family could be counted and taxed. The way devised to get that data was to require every head of a house- hold to register in his family’s town of origin, prompting Joseph to leave his home and business in the up-north village of Nazareth to travel the more than 70 miles to Bethlehem, a Jewish town with no inns, only humble one-room homes, with some having a small enclosure on the roof – the guest room – and a step-down space at one end of the house that served as a nighttime stable. There, newborn lambs and calves were sheltered from the cold night air and from attacking animals.
Hollowed-out feed troughs were their suppertime table, with one serving as a straw-lined cradle for Mary’s Baby.
Mother, father, and newborn Child, three more in what was an already over-crowded poor peasant’s home.
Imagine that out-of the way place flooded with returning relatives who, in the practice of Jewish hospitality, soon maxed out all the space a family could offer.
It must have been bedlam in Bethlehem that literally turned the place upside-down, wrong-side up, topsy-turvy.
There the Christmas story begins, and as it is reported, becomes ever more upside-down, wrong-side up, topsy-turvy!
Shepherds are watching their flocks under the night sky of absolute quietness, broken only by the “baa” of lambs and the “meh” of sheep, until suddenly, the silent music of the sky’s spheres and the stars’ noiseless light show are out staged by brilliant, radiant heavenly beings taking the human form of “angels” giving a loud, raucous performance, announcing the birth of a “Child” whose kingdom of peace will be endless.
They will find Him, not in the nursery of Herod’s royal palace, but in a straw-lined feed trough in a peasant’s modest home .
There God takes on human form, clothed in lowliness and humility that turn all the predictions and expectations of One born to be King of the Jews, into a Servant King Who will establish an unending reign of justice balanced with mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and peace. God’s upside down, inside-out, topsy-turvy plan!
The wonder and thrill of it all is anticipated in a conversation between two cousins;
one named Elizabeth and the other Mary who get the Story of Christmas off to an upside-down, wrong-side up, topsy-turvy start . Elizabeth who is too old to bear a child, is soon to become a mother; and Mary who hasn’t dated anyone is told she will bear a Child Whose Father is God. God’s choice of Mary is enough to cause Elizabeth to shout with a loud cry, “…and blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment
of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” to which Mary exclaims: “My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” and then breaks forth into singing a song of the intentions of God,
imagined by Mary before God’s plan is birthed into life!
Her song is filled with magnificent lines of God’s actions that will turn the world’s notions of success and power and wealth upside-down, wrong-side up, topsy-turvy. Her song sounds so good when played as the prelude for the scene of a manger and shepherds and a choir of angels, but keep playing it as the Baby grows into a Man
and His mother weeps beneath His cross,
then hurries to His tomb and, finding it empty dares to believe
that death has been conquered by life,
and yet, there will be many challenges to that claim; so many that, at times, it will seem to be a false and empty hope.
It is then that we who keep singing Mary’s song, sometimes set it to the beat of impatience, sometimes turning up the volume to a belligerent pitch - challenging God to get on with being the God celebrated in Mary’s song;
it is then that we must give it the inflection of faith.
We learn how to sing the upside-down, wrong-side up, topsy-turvy Story of Christmas as we listen to that part of Handel’s Messiah, when the baritone soloist lets out the words “and the trumpet shall sound” and holds it and holds it, as though drawing his breath from a mysterious source. We, however, must stop for air, and when we do, might we find ourselves drawing in the fresh breath of a faint sign, that refreshes us with faith in God’s intentions,
a sign that sustains to hold on to God’s upside-down, inside- out, topsy-turvy plan Mary celebrates in song?
A recent entry in the webpage journal called Caringbridge is such a sign as told by Joe and Kathy Cook and shared with their permission. The entry (adapted) tells of their being in the courtyard at Parkhouse on an unusually warm December morning. As they sat with their daughter Paige, who needs total care ever since an auto accident, a security officer whom they don’t know, came out into the courtyard to say he prays for Paige every day and when he is on her floor, he stops to talk to her. Then he said to hold on to Faith and in the next world (where) we go to, Paige will run again.
A stranger’s words are the encouragement to keep taking a deep breath so that we may sustain the long note of faith, until, at last, and that may not be until, in the stranger’s words “the next world” which we may render as “heaven,” when and where God’s plan will be eternally fulfilled.
So, we take a deep breath and pick up Mary’s lines as we again this year make our way to a manger,
where – in faith – we will rejoice in receiving God’s topsy-turvy plan heard echoing thorough the Story of Christmas.