A Sea Change Christmas

A Sea Change Christmas December 25, 2012

by Calulu

Merry Christmas from NLQ!

For many of us here our traditions and doings around the holidays have changed since we’re left behind all that is quiverfull or whatever brand of fundamentalism you were enmeshed with. Sometimes you must tweak what you do to keep from triggering bad memories and emotions of holidays past.

There are things I used to do and believe that I’d put aside mostly since leaving my old faith. Some of those haven’t held up well to the new dynamics of my life. They’ve suffered a sea change.

I have been considering the great shifts in my ways and thoughts since leaving Possum Creek Church. The weeks of busy, since I was usually put in charge of decorating the church for the season. I think they used to call people that did that, changed out the altar cloths plus readied the church for holiday services sacristans. One of the few times I actually had an opportunity to put into use my major at college. I had studied art so the differing liturgical season brought different needs to reflect different aspects of what we perceived was the nature of God. Purple silks and flowers for Easter, potted palms and cut palm fronds for Palm Sunday to times when the altar was dressed simply with silk runners and carefully assembled plant arrangements without any holiday. The sacred and the ordinary. But Christmas being something like the Super Bowl of religious holidays it was over the top and time consuming.

Add in the pressures of being a good submitting Christian wife, baking a zillion cookies, attending this or that connected to the church, the outreaches and ministries plus the expectations of family. I always found the relentless rounds of ‘must dos’ exhausted me to the point where by New Years Eve I was ready for bed by about 8 pm and felt like I’d been run over by a reindeer.

The changes now are that I do only what I feel like genuinely doing for others and don’t worry about the rest of it. Sometimes I barely decorate for the holidays, sometimes I do, it just depends. I bake, I don’t bake, whatever. It is a very small fraction for what I used to do and that’s okay by me. It doesn’t make holidays any less special.

The biggest change for me personally is that I look at the Christmas story completely differently now. Instead of sweet sentimentality or unquestioning adoration of the Christ child I’m seized by questions and practicality. I look at Mary, and I think about how horrible it would be to be forced to ride a stinky donkey or be pulled along on that long trip in a donkey cart while pregnant. I think about the fact that when you’re close to your due date you have to pee every half hour and how no position is comfortable. I think of the misery of being full term pregnant as a teenager riding that donkey only to end up with your new husband playing mid wife in a stable or cave, in dirty straw while animals farted, made racket and defecated nearby while you were laboring. I feel like smacking Joseph in the head for not making a reservation at the local Biblical Holiday Inn.

Then I ask myself if this is the best that God could do to send His son to the world? Seems pretty strange way to send Him into this world to me. I can no longer accept that every word of the Bible came right straight from the hand of God. I see a historical document that may be divinely inspired that doesn’t always make sense at all.

I don’t get it any longer. I guess the Koolaid has finally cleared my brain enough now that the Bible and our traditions gives me pause to think instead of accepting everything I’m told by the pastor.

How has your own personal journey out caused you to view the holiday season and changed or challenged you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

However you celebrate and whatever holiday you celebrate I hope that you’re surrounded by the people that love you and the flame of love burns strong within you, that you feel blessed by love.

 Comments open below

Read everything by Calulu!

Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago. Her blog is Calulu – Roadkill on the Internet Superhighway

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NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • AnneCME

    Have you read Dorothy Parker’s poem “Prayer for a New Mother”? Those practical considerations of Mary — and wishes from one mother to another shine through in one of my favorite Christmas poems. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/prayer-for-a-new-mother/

  • Bill S

    We know absolutely nothing about the actual birth of the man we know as Jesus. The story was written years later and is likely all or mostly fiction. The only one who could tell the story would have been Mary but even she would not have known all the details contained in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

  • One way that my new way of practicing my religion has changed the way I view Christmas is that I understand the story in Luke a little differently, now that I have learned to study and take into account the history and culture of the times. After reading Kenneth Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, I now see the story of Jesus being born in a stable as actually a misunderstanding of the original text, based on a cultural disconnect.
    The word “inn” is mistranslated; it was a word that referred to the guest-room section of a three-part Middle-Eastern home. The front part of the house was for the housing of the family’s animals, with a half-wall dividing this area from the main living quarters. The guest area was at the back, with the fhomeowners living in the middle part of the house.
    Joseph, being of the line of David, certainly would have had relatives to stay with, and no self-respecting Middle Eastern family would have ever so disregarded the expectations of hospitality as to allow Mary to give birth in a barn! She and Joseph would have been taken in by a family member, but because so many people were there for the census, the guest room was full, so Mary and Joseph would have been brought in to stay with the family proper, and the homeowners would have commandeered the feed trough (manger) which stood at the foot of that half wall, to be a baby-bed.
    The text never actually uses any word that could be translated “barn” or “stable.”
    As for Bill’s comment – the story as set forth in Luke comes from a variety of oral traditions, later written down, and Mary’s own story was quite likely among them, told by her and carefully preserved. Societies which relied on oral tradition for the passing down of sacred stories were actually a lot more careful in accurately preserving the material than we, in our modern understanding, tend to believe. We tend to think of the oral tradition as “primitive” and to feel superior to it– which is a sort of modernist mentality that fails to take into account the real care which went into the transmission of these stories. Mistranslations and cultural disconnects certainly have occurred, but the idea of Jesus being laid in a manger because there was no room in the guest room is actually completely in keeping with the way homes in Israel at that time were actually set up. There is no reason to consider it a fabrication.

  • Bill S

    It’s quite possible that Luke knew Mary and painted her portrait. Parts about following a star (or was that Matthew?) and angels appearing to shepherds have to be fabricated.

  • There was no census, so you don’t have to worry about that.

  • As far as whether or not the account of the census is wrong, see this analysis:

  • madame

    One thing I’m done with: pontifications against any and all Christmas traditions that aren’t “about Jesus”.
    This Christmas was hard. I want it to be special, and I want to show my appreciation and love to many people, and I want my children to enjoy Christmas. In the end, I find that stressing myself out to make things “perfect”, while trying to keep it all “about Jesus”, is like trying to do the splits. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to make it all “about Jesus” for us! What is with all this “Jesus is the reason for the season”? If it’s about Jesus, then you might as well do away with 90% of Christmas, but then you’ll make the poor children miserable, unless you homeschool.
    If we want to think about the meaning of God becoming man, we can do that anywhere anytime. No need for a holiday.
    I guess the main changes for me have been in my acceptance that Christmas is what people want it to be for them, so I’m not offended if people don’t want to make it all “about Jesus” (not like I am even doing that!), and I can see the positive side of families getting together and enjoying each other’s company regardless of what the holiday means to them, if anything.
    I’m glad Christmas is over this year.

  • Bill S

    ” I can see the positive side of families getting together and enjoying each other’s company regardless of what the holiday means to them, if anything.”

    Exactly. That’s the way I feel about it, too.

  • Madame, I’m of the mind to take what works for us and not worry about making everything religious. I believe in common graces. Sacred is whatever makes it loving and special for us and those we care about.