by Cindy Kunsman
Though I often celebrate the holidays without notice of the criticism that some Christians direct towards Christmas, but this year, examples such as this one set me thinking.
A friend of mine took note of an article about how the pagan traditions of honoring the “divine feminine” and the celebration of winter solstice were grafted into the lore of Santa Claus. Nordic and Siberian peoples used the solstice to honor their shaman women, the female reindeer who does not lose her horns like the male, and the many good gifts that both offered to their communities. The reindeer tradition may even account for the traditional use of the color red to Christmas! These stories sounded much like the worship of Artemis once practiced in Ephesus, as she was the hunter goddess who brought moonlight to the night, protected women in childbirth, and venerated deer. How could patriarchal Athens and the Northlands dare to honor these women when blending Christianity with pagan traditions? The doe retained her horns, but the reinvented patriarchy stole her femininity and strapped her with a harness.
I grew up in a Moravian community created by Christians who secured the observation of Christmas in their towns’ names. Ludwig Nikolas von Zinzendorf invited oppressed Christian minorities to settle on the land that he owned in Moravia/Bohemia in 1722. He was a devout Lutheran, but the love and devotion of the Moravians renewed his joy in what had become dying dogma. Zinzendorf would commission seventy Moravian missionaries to travel all over the world with the message of hope in the goodness of God. They founded Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (my childhood community) on Christmas Eve in 1742 as a part of their traditional, zealous celebration of Advent. If Christmas trees were once pagan, the Moravians adorned them with so many white stars and surrounded them with so many nativities that anything else washed away through reclamation and redemption.
And that reminds me of another such symbol.
On the outskirts of Athens, when a former Pharisee visited, the people of the town ushered him to their meeting place which they called Mars Hill. Especially for the Epicureans, people would flock to this part of town for debates and discussion of philosophy, religion, law, and delightfully new ideas. They practiced idolatry, observed Greek mythology, while others believed that a supreme being existed but had no interest in them. Most know the visitor as the Apostle Paul who honored the aspirations of the people of Athens and showed respect for their efforts to know divinity. He used their ideas as an opportunity to share his beliefs when he suggested that the famed idol that bore the inscription “To an Unknown God” was the very One who appeared to Paul to declare to him that the affairs of men were paramount. For this reason, God had come to all of them as Immanuel.
Do I celebrate Christmas? Absolutely. I celebrate God who brings light into the darkness to dispell it – and darkness has no power over it. I am grateful for the hopes of people who look for light and the light of insight which they find through the help, the shared bounty, and the kindness of others. For them, I pray that along with the messenger creatures that they might also come to know the Creator.
May Christians find no fear in objects that the pagan (the ‘villager’) sets as a focus as the source of goodness and light. May they use every opportunity to share the love of God with villages far and wide. And may all this fear of the feminine fall away so that the creature daughters can shine with all of the beauty, glory, and power that God yearns to manifest through them.
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Cindy is a nurse who was raised in Word of Faith, a Second Generation Adult of cultic Christianity. She and her husband dabbled in Calvinism and Theonomy as a foil to Christian anti-intellectualism, and they were exit counseled together when the walked away from a church that embraced Gothard’s teachings. Cindy escaped many Quiverfull pitfalls but became a social pariah for failing to birth a family. She’s been decrying the abuses of the Patriarchy Movement since 2004, and she writes about spiritual abuse at her blog, Under Much Grace. Read more about her here.
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