In the end, how can we prepare ourselves for Christmas with only four days left? By trying Christmas In Reverse. What do I mean?
I once heard the story of a Stealth fighter plane performing training maneuvers one night. It was flying low to the ground at a fast rate of speed when the pilot noticed an upcoming elevation rise on his radar. He instinctively pulled up on the throttle to gain altitude, and with that the plane suddenly crashed into the ground, killing everyone on board. When the black box was found and examined, it was discovered that the pilot had made a terrible error. He had pulled up without looking at the rest of his instruments. The plane had been flying upside down for some time, and he had just forgotten. Pulling up was actually going down. What the pilot assumed would save the plane destroyed it.
This is such an apt illustration for entering into Christmas. We are the ones flying upside down. Jesus was so right: the things we think will give us life destroy us (see Mark 8:34-35). To follow him always requires a countermove, something different, something I call Christmas in Reverse.
Some time ago, Heidi and I decided that the gift-giving had swamped us, not only the pressure to find the right gift, but the time and money consumed. We told our daughters that we were going to cut way back on the gifts and take a family trip instead. In addition, I put an envelope on the tree with these words: Christmas In Reverse. Inside was a sum of money. As a family, we were to put our heads together and figure out how to give it away. It has become one of the highlights of our Christmas, for the focus here is on what we give away, not on receiving what we often don’t need.
But the Christmas in Reverse idea extends much further. Any kind of countermove will work. If you are estranged from your family, do something crazy to reach out. If you eat or drink too much, try abstaining from alcohol or fasting a meal. If you are passive with your parents, ask a question that engages them. If you are constantly in motion, find an hour to be quiet before God. The possibilities are endless.
Remember we are the ones flying upside down. Jesus is trying to turn us around so that we can find the life He came to give us.
So what’s your Christmas in Reverse going to be?