It is so easy to go blind and deaf at Christmas. Blinded by garish lights, “sale” signs and mobs of anxious, cranky shoppers. Deafened by tinny renditions of “Rudolph” and “Frosty,” not to mention the sweet strains of “Silent Night” from the automotive department of a chain store.
It is so easy as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to enter into an even deeper, more debilitating level of blindness and deafness, suckered in by the commercial superficiality. We can lose sight of the deeper purpose of Christmas. And we, who often are regulated to the fringes of church and society, can fail to grasp the depth of the Christmas message, a message that is truly meant as much for us as for anyone else, maybe even more so.
So what’s in the Christmas celebration for GLBT Christians? No less than this: Into our frightened and fragile world, what Thomas Merton once described as a “demented inn,” a world broken and wounded, filled with people stumbling in their own private gloom and fear, God decided to dispel the shadows and calm his children’s fears.
How did he do this? With great and impressive signs of power and violence? Far from it. In his wisdom, God sent his co-equal Son, not arrayed in military splendor with legions of battle-ready angels at his command. He came to dwell among us wrapped in the tender flesh of a shivering newborn baby boy. Jesus entered our world without the trappings of divinity so as to take on the powerlessness of humanity. And he came as an outsider. He who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,” who “humbled himself,” came as the supposed son of a working man, a member of an oppressed people. Because of this, Jesus understands us and our needs, our cries for liberation, our fears and the abuse that is often part of the cross we bear. To find the relief we need and the comfort we desire we do not have to wait for the baby to become the man. We can go to his humble crib.
Anyone who has been injured by vicious uses of scripture to demean and denounce, come to his crib.
Anyone who has been made to feel like “damaged goods” because of their sexuality, come to his crib.
Anyone who has been beaten down by lies and innuendo, been rejected by family and friends, come to his crib.
To any and all who have been made to feel that they are an abomination, that the God who created them now loathes them, that Jesus’ love does not extend to them, I say come to that rude, rough crib and peer inside. Look into the newborn face of Jesus of Nazareth. You will not find a look of anger there, a look of condemnation, or a look of denial. When you look upon the Word of God made flesh, out of love for all of us, you will find one like us.
Jesus knew what being an outsider meant. He started life lying on rough straw. He would experience the prickly rejection in his life of the religious authorities, and he would know their rough condemnation. He started life in a manger, a feeding trough, because of the insensitivity and blindness of others. He would end his earthly life pinned naked to the humiliating wood of the cross because of the rigidity and hatred of those who had God firmly in their back pocket — or so they thought.
Whether or not Jesus was gay is really of little importance. The main thing is because of how the world treated him, he who is fully God and fully human also knows full well what his GLBT brothers and sisters endure. But his coming also sends us this message: God has not, cannot, and will not abandon us. He came to us as a baby because there is nothing to fear from one so tiny. St. Therese of Lisieux once wrote, “A God who became so small could only be love and mercy.” He came to us as a baby because he did not come to threaten or condemn. No, the Infant Jesus, like the adult Jesus, came for those who have been threatened and beaten down and brutalized. He experienced it firsthand so that we could bring our pain to him and find healing from one who understands.
St. Francis of Assisi created the first crèche, the first representation of the nativity of Jesus, using real people and animals. Many of us decorate our homes with trees and greenery and multicolored and simple white lights. We have Santas and snow-folk and grinning elves. But if we do not have some representation of the crèche, however humble, we not only miss the “reason for the season,” we cheat ourselves out of a gentle reminder of how deeply and passionately we are loved by God. Francis once told his followers, “You are what you are in the eyes of God and no more.” What are you in God’s eyes? Madly loved! You are so loved that, if you alone needed the coming of Jesus, he would gladly have come for you. He did come for you and bids you to come sit by his manger. There you will come to know who you are: His beloved brother or sister, someone Jesus can never stop loving, some who has been literally loved to death.
Christmas: What’s in it for GLBT folks? Something that is ours because we belong to Jesus — “tidings of comfort and joy,” a joy the world cannot give, a comfort it can never take away.
A very merry, joyful and holy Christmas to you all!
Tom Yeshua is the pen name of Thomas E.L. Cloutier OFS, a transitional deacon who taught theology for 30 years at Nashua (N.H.) Catholic Regional Junior High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Don Bosco College in Newton, N.J., and a master’s in divinity and theology from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass.