Christmas is a time for treasured traditions, looking back on the good news and the challenges of the past year, and forward with hope toward the year to come.
This year, there has been plenty of good news for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of faith. More and more churches have opened their doors and hearts to embrace a more full inclusion, including my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We took a step this year to allow the ordination of openly LGBT members who are both gifted and called to serve. We were following the faithful lead of other denominations who have helped pave the road before us.
However, there is still more work that we – as Christ’s arms and legs in the world – must do. The drumbeat of news highlighting the suicides of LGBT teens is one measure of this. My heart goes out to the families of these teens and to all others who are suffering.
At Christmas, there is also a special place in my heart (as in yours, I expect) for the LGBT people of the world who are suffering because they have been cast out of their homes and faith communities. I can only imagine the extra hurt that being shut out of the Christmastime traditions we all cherish brings for these beloved children of God.
At the same time, we can all have hope at Christmas that testifying to and living out God’s inclusive welcome to all are the best ways to guarantee more good news to come.
The Christmas story is a good reminder of this. The story of Jesus’ birth enacts before our very eyes the unconditional love of God come in Jesus and the transformative power that this love has.
Jesus was born into a world hostile to who He was from the very beginning. Roman powers sent His parents to the strange village of Bethlehem. In Judea, Joseph and Mary encountered very little welcome. The local puppet, King Herod, felt threatened by the very news of Jesus’ birth.
Like Jesus, many LGBT people move in a world where hostile powers would tell us who we are and what we should do. There are still people like Herod who claim to feel threatened by our sheer presence.
Yet, the story tells us: People high and low – shepherds and kings – from near and far came to Jesus and left transformed.
Before our very eyes, in the pageant where so many of us played a part when we were children, the wide embrace of God in Christ calls us, as well, to the manger bed.
Like the shepherds’ gift to Mary of the angel’s words or the priceless treasure left by the astrologers from the East, we can bring our best selves to Jesus. As the Psalmists tell us, when we do this, we absorb God’s pure lovingkindness and rise up transformed.
The amazing thing is that we – people who share a vision for God’s inclusive love – have the power to enact the Christmas story again and again in our communities. Every time we have the immense courage to share ourselves with others, to explain how God made us good and loves us wholly, we absorb the power and love of Jesus and spread the lovingkindness of God. And people are transformed just as we are transformed when we bring ourselves to the baby in the manger.
As I see it, this is the essence of Believing Out Loud.
Jesus commissions every believer to spread the Good News. We are doing this work every time we Believe Out Loud. Every time we share our story, we enact the Christmas story in our own lives for all the world to see, again and again.
May the love, joy and peace of Christmas be yours now and in all your days to come.
Image flickr jacilluch