The Story Behind Grace Chapel's Gravity-Defying, Upside Down Christmas Tree

Local church joins the Advent Conspiracy, flips the script on Christmas tradition.

Christmas trees in high traffic areas are always a bit of a spectacle. At malls and city commons, where they’re sometimes known as “Holiday Trees,” they’re big, bold and brightly lit. At churches and office buildings decorations often carry a theme of some kind.

At Grace Chapel, they’re on the ceilings.

That’s right: Christmas trees defy gravity to hang from ceilings at Grace Chapel’s Lexington and Wilmington locations. And, yes, they are meant to make people stop and stare.

“People can’t get past that this icon of Christmas is upside down,” said Jared Willey, a church spokesman. “Our hope is that when folks walk in and see the tree they think that maybe their idea of Christmas has been upside down all along.”

Each year, Grace Chapel tries to do something special at Christmastime. This time around, they’re embracing the Advent Conspiracy movement and suggesting folks get into the holiday spirit by spending a little less, giving more meaningful gifts and making a difference in the world.

Inspiration sparked during Grace Chapel’s global awareness week this fall, which featured a theme of justice and compassion, according to Willey, and it carried over to the holiday season.

“It had an impact on the congregation where we just felt like we couldn’t do a big Christmas with an elaborate show,” said Willey. “What came out of that was to do a Christmas where we thought less about our selves.”

By putting the tree on the ceiling and subverting the seasonal icon, Grace Chapel hopes to give people a different perspective on a holiday that has been commercialized over the years. Spending less on gifts, the logic says, frees up resources to give to those who really need help and, little by little, to change the world.

“If we’re going to do something as radical as don’t spend so much on Christmas and give more of ourselves, we thought we needed a symbol,” said Willey.  “We knew going into it that some people were going to look at it and find it maybe a little bit offensive. Because it’s not an inherently religious symbol, we’re not being sacrilegious to people, but we are trying to give a little bit of a different perspective on Christmas. It doesn’t have to be just a chance to throw parties and give for no reason; it’s a chance to respect the birth of our Savior, give fully and love all.”

Grace Chapel isn’t turning the holiday completely upside down, however. They’re still offering Christmas Eve Candlelight Services for area residents.

Services at Grace Chapel’s Lexington campus are on Saturday and Sunday, December 22 and 23, at 7 p.m., and on Monday, Dec. 24 at 3 p.m., 4:30 p.m.  and 6 p.m. Grace Chapel’s Wilmington campus will host Christmas Eve services on Dec. 24 at 4 and 5:30 p.m.

For complete information about Christmas at both of Grace Chapel’s campuses, including directions, interpretation for the deaf, and translation services, visit www.grace.org/christmas.

Harriet Chmela December 21, 2012 at 04:19 PM
During this Holiday season when our lives have been turned inside out and UPSIDE DOWN by the heartbreaking tragedy which killed innocent children and courageous teachers may the upturned Christmas tree cause us to focus on the Birth of the Baby Jesus and His words "bring the little children to me . .. theirs is the kingdom of heaven. May we share the many beautiful symbols of Hannukah and Christmas - Santa Claus, trees, lights, candles and menorahs, stars, angels, cards and gifts, kindness and generosity to others, GIVING and above all, PEACE continue to bring us closer to one another through FORGIVENESS and LOVE! Harriet Chmela


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