This is our second Christmas in Ghana. We are celebrating by posting again what we posted for our first Christmas. It is uniquely Ghanaian.
Ghana has a rich history, culture and beliefs. Long before explorers and missionaries arrived, the Akan people of Ghana developed a rich set of symbols to explain their beliefs. One of them is this stylized representation of rams horns, called “Dwennimmen“
A ram will fight fiercely with a predator or another ram. So it is associated with strength, which is why the ram’s horns are found on Dodge Ram trucks. But it also submits quietly to slaughter. In the Dwennimmen symbol, the Akan people captured these opposite qualities of the ram: meekness and strength. It was a reminder to those who are strong to exercise their strength in humility.
At Christmas, we celebrate the all-powerful God coming down and being born as a baby. He was born with animals into a family of modest means. Talk about being meek and being strong!
When Jesus was accused by Pilot, he did not try to defend himself, just like the prediction about Jesus in Isaiah:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7 ESV)
Again, great strength exercised in great meekness, just like the Akan symbol Dwennimmen.
Another animal used to symbolize Jesus is the Lion. He is called “the lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). The lion, of course, represents strength and courage The praise chorus “How Great Is Our God“, celebrates the unexpected juxtaposition with the words
The Godhead three in one
Father, Spirit, Son
Lion and the Lamb
Lion and the Lamb
When Jesus said that his kingdom is not “of this world”, his meek approach to power must be one of the things he meant. Through simple grassroots action, such as Bible translation, that kingdom is expanding around the world. There is a power in the Gospel even when to this world it seems timid, meek, or irrelevant, just as did Jesus birth.
People associate all kinds of symbols with Christmas: snow, sleighs, Santa, reindeer, trees, wreaths, stars, angels, wise men, shepherds, a stable, a manger, even tin soldiers and more. This Christmas I am adding a Ghanaian symbol to my repertoire – ” Dwennimmen” or rams’ horns.
May you have a blessed Christmas.
This was originally posted in December 2011.