Stranger Things Have Happened

By: Candace Chellew-Hodge

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, 'Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.' But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.' Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I am a virgin?' The angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.' -- Luke 1:26-37

I can only imagine the major league freak out Mary had after this little meeting with Gabriel.

"Favored one?" she might scream through her tears. "How can I be a 'favored one' when this pregnancy will ruin my life? What the Sheol is this blasted angel talking about? If I have found 'favor' with God, why would God give me something like this - something that will guarantee that I will be an outcast? Something that will guarantee that my friends, my family and my religion will abandon me for? Favored, my eye! God has cursed me!"

Of course, Mary was not cursed - she was most blessed to give birth to Jesus - who incarnated the Holy so perfectly that his very presence upon this celestial sphere has been celebrated for thousands of years - into the modern day.

But, Mary didn't know that when she was told of her impending pregnancy by Gabriel. All she could see in that moment was the terror that would come her way in the near future. What would Joseph do? Would she be abandoned? Would she be shunned? Would she be kicked out of her family, kicked out of the synagogue, forced to live a beggars life even as her belly grew over the next 9 months?

I imagine gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people can identify with Mary's dilemma. When we first discover the truth about ourselves - about our sexual orientation or gender identity - our first reaction isn't usually isn't to think of ourselves as "favored." Instead, we freak out, because we know if the truth about us gets out, we have a lot to lose. We can lose our families, our friends, our livelihood, our homes and even our religion.

The good news, however, is that we, like Mary, are blessed with the miracle of Jesus' very real presence in our lives. We, as LGBT people, are pregnant with blessings. These blessings are often hidden for fear that they will be rejected - for fear that we may be rejected, and perhaps crucified for our temerity to even think we can offer those blessings to the world.

But, just like Mary, at some point, it becomes impossible to hide our condition. At some point, we have to give birth to our real identity - we have to give birth to that Holiness that grows inside of us. We must release our blessings into the world, no matter how the world reacts.

We must remember that world reacted quite poorly to Jesus and his message. Even today, many communities that call themselves "Christians" are still rejecting Jesus' call to embrace the outcast, feed the poor and clothe the naked. Instead, they preach about some other Jesus who approves of shunning those they don't like, those they think are immoral, or seeing the poor and needy as "sinners" who must have done something wrong or else God would be blessing them with wealth.

To be Holy in this world is to be misunderstood, but that didn't stop Jesus from spreading his message of love, community, equality and equity. It shouldn't stop us either. Both society, and the church, has reacted poorly to the blessings brought forth by LGBT people. We offer blessings to society, modeling the true nature of marriage as a relationship of equals, working together to create homes of love and commitment. We offer blessings to society in the form of our creativity in arts, science and all aspects of creative society. We offer our blessings to the church in the form of wounded healers who know what it's like to live into our holiness even on the margins of religion.

We have many gifts to bring our world. As LGBT people, we are just as miraculous as that holy gift that Mary brought into this world. Born in shame, rejected by his hometown, hounded by the authorities and finally executed for his revolutionary message of peace and equity, Jesus lived into the gifts he had to bring into this world.

This is the model of everyday miracles that we must follow. Any time we are able to live fully into who God has created us to be, we perform miracles. Whether or not anyone recognizes them as such does not mean they do not exist. We have already done many miracles as a community - smashing closets, walking down the aisle of matrimony and taking our rightful place in both the pew and the pulpit.

Our lives are miracles. Let us live into those miracles every single minute.

Besides, stranger things have happened.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is a recovering Southern Baptist and founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians. Her first book, Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, published by Jossey-Bass is now available at http://www.bulletproofbook.com. She currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle, a progressive, inclusive community in Columbia, South Carolina. She is also a spiritual director and is currently taking on new directees. She blogs regularly at Religion Dispatches. She can be reached by email at editor-at-whosoever.org or by using the suggestion box.

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Endorsed by such religious leaders as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop John Shelby Spong and named one of the Best Spiritual Books of 2008, Whosoever founder Candace Chellew-Hodge's first book Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians is making an impact in the lives of LGBT Christians.

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