The long wait of Advent is over – Christmas is here! We wish all our readers a wonderful Christmas today!
Though Advent is over, we still wanted to share our reflections on the fourth week of Advent, which has been all about love.
Many things are said and done to the LGBTQ+ Christian community in the name of love, but not all of them are received as love. Just last night, one of our community members attended a Christmas Eve service back at her old church in her hometown. Directly after the service, one of the church members pulled her aside, and instead of welcoming her back to the church, this person took the opportunity to lecture her about the sinfulness of her same-sex marriage. In the midst of these stern warnings, the church member said, “I want you to know that I’m not judging you – I’m saying this because I love you.”
In cases like these, our words and actions may indeed be motivated by love, but the intended recipient of our love does not actually receive love. Marshall McLuhan famously said that “the medium is the message.” The way we communicate love impacts the message itself.
Today, we celebrate the arrival of the ultimate “medium” of the “message” of God’s love: love embodied, love in person, love incarnate, God With Us. Jesus came into this world in weakness and vulnerability, naked, crying, completely dependent, in need of food, shelter, and the love of his parents. For the first years of his life, he couldn’t heal, perform miracles, preach, or even speak at all; he could only receive from others. And when he did begin his ministry, he spent a lot of time with those on the margins, addressing them with tenderness and hope, honoring them, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy: “A bruised reed he will not break; a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.” When Jesus communicated God’s love, people understood the message.
Here are some of our community’s reflections on love, what it means, and when they’ve most (and least) experienced it from their friends and family…
In my experience as a gay man, I feel I have been taught to fear love, to fear the way I’m wired to love, and to receive love from others. So I appreciated it all the more when my best friend taught me how to bare my soul, to let myself share my deepest thoughts and be vulnerable. He embodied safety while I exposed my deepest most radical thoughts, I have rarely experienced such love.
I feel loved when my friends and family aren’t afraid to talk to me about my sexuality. And when others refer to me using my preferred terms of identity.
I remember one time I was completely drained after having a very tough conversation about my sexuality with one of the supervisors at the Christian organization where I worked. While sharing about it with my housemate I broke down and cried. He gave me a big hug and cried too. In that moment, seeing someone else weeping because of my pain I realized how God also weeps with me in my pain.
I feel loved when my parents make a point of introducing my wife to their elderly friends. They don’t try to hide the fact that she’s my same-sex partner, even though it will likely provoke difficult and awkward conversations with their friends later on.
I’ve noticed a difference in the small talk that happens with people since coming out. For many people nothing has changed. We chat briefly about life, asking about each other’s upcoming plans, vacation memories and about family. Sadly, there is a group of people who politely interact with me but have since dropped the casual conversation. They have stopped having real conversations and keep things “all business”. They probably don’t think anything has changed but I am keenly aware of the difference.
I experience real love in my wife and see how she cares not only for me, but for so many within our LGBTQ community. Our stories of struggle and suffering she carries so deeply within herself and is passionate about being a good and honest ally. She has a big and expansive love that draws inspiration from her love of Jesus.
I am feeling the sting of exclusion from my extended family this Christmas. I am also a mom with kids who express different beliefs than I hold. So I think of this contrast as I express my love for my kids by giving them space to be autonomous, free from control or fear or pressure, by entering into inquisitive conversation together, by demonstrating trust and not questioning their motives. It isn’t always easy – but love really does embody 1 Cor. 13. The hurt I feel is in being not trusted by my extended family, having my motives questioned …. it is like they don’t know me and don’t want to know me. It motivates me all the more to make space to allow people to be truly known with the “assumption” of goodness unless proven otherwise.
I hope that I have increased in empathy for those who feel rejection because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. The holidays are painful for not being known by people who could have done better but felt that they could not. I am left wondering whether I fail in the same way. The only way to see through this is to know I am loved by God unreservedly and without conditions.
Real love is a real conversation. It does not impose your idea of freedom on me, but respects my integrity. It expects to learn from me, even if you think I am wrong.
This Christmas, whether or not you are alone, or with friends and family (or feeling very alone in the midst of friends and family), we pray that you will feel the presence of the God who humbled himself to take on flesh, move into our neighbourhood, share our human experience, all to drive home the message of how deeply he loves us.