Religion and I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. I used to be the type of person who believed unquestioningly and wholeheartedly in God. I took such utter joy out of being at church and worshipping. And then I met the other side of religion – her judgemental, hateful side – and realized that, well, I couldn’t afford to be unquestioning and joyful, because if this is what God really was, then why was I, a girl who was different and hated by his followers, choosing to align myself with Him?
There are many gay people who are Christian. I used to be one of those people. And somewhere, inside, I know that I still am. I don’t believe that any God would create someone just to be hated and spat upon by others. I don’t believe anyone is more righteous than anyone else. But I refuse to be part of any organized Christian sect because my problem, I realized, isn’t with God. It’s with a lot of his followers.
But it changes at Christmastime. Whereas I don’t usually darken the door of any church during the year, I find myself drawn to the hushed beauty in December. Maybe it’s the early sunset or tons of little lights on everyone’s houses. Or maybe it’s because for me, a big part of the season is feeling that joy again – the joy I felt at the age of 6 years old when my parents let me place the little porcelain baby Jesus in the Nativity scene. The joy I feel, still, at reading Luke’s proclamation in the Bible – “Behold! I bring you tidings of great joy, that shall be to all people. For unto you this day in the city of David, a child is born.”
I feel welcomed at Christmastime. It’s okay for someone who is traditionally an outsider to celebrate with the people of the church. I go to my parents’ church every year for Christmas and feel welcomed. I spend some time in meditation and prayer. And I wonder why something so beautiful, something so holy, is so distasteful the rest of the year.
Is it because we forget about judging each other at Christmas? Is it because Christmas is about family, togetherness, making each other happy? Is it because that mysterious miracle, that a poor baby born in a dirty Bethlehem stable next to a donkey had the potential to, and eventually would, completely change the world?
I don’t know if Jesus was really divine. I guess that’s something that will always be a mystery. I do believe in the power of a higher being. And I have such a love affair with beautiful marble churches with gorgeous acoustics and breathtaking stained glass. There’s something amazing about creating something because you were divinely inspired. It’s got an otherworldly quality that isn’t found anywhere else.
And I’m not saying that I’m a Christian again just at Christmas. I don’t think that I have the right to say that. But I am saying that I remember why I believed in the first place. I hear the beautiful carols, see the Advent candles glowing against the altar, and remember why organized religion was an option for me way back when. There’s a beauty in it.
And for a moment, I’m able to forgive the hurt and scars I bear from judgemental Christians. I’m able to give myself up to a God I struggle to reconcile myself to. To even believe in.
Love is simply joy. Christmas is about love. And that’s why I come back, every single year . . . because only then, do I see who God meant Christians to be. Loving, caring, open, and warm.
Only then do I really see the effect that the poor baby in Bethlehem had on us all.
The Nativity in a stained glass window