by Mark Hakes, Oblate Candidate
1 Thessalonians 3:12—4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
As a queer kid growing up in a conservative, evangelical denomination, I thought today’s Gospel reading not only described the second coming, but what would happen if I ever came out. It was made very clear – at least in the circles I found myself in – that being queer was a sinful, disordered choice, a turning away from God. I often found myself during the altar call at the end of church services riddled with guilt and anxiety. I was sinful, gross, unworthy. I was made to feel as if I had made this evil choice. If only I trusted God more, He would take this awful burden away and I would be “normal”.
Instead, in my prayer I encountered a Creator who knew every part of me and loved me.
Listen to Psalm 139 sing to us of our beauty, our belovedness. “…It was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Like individual squares on a quilt, the Seamstress of Life has masterfully crafted each of us using various colors, textures, and patterns. God has stitched into us Her incomprehensible love, tenderly sewing together our experiences of grace into the beautiful and unique people we are.
What keeps us ignoring all the ways our God sings out Their love to us? What words, what definitions, what false binaries, what systems of power continue to keep us from our true selves? What keeps us from hearing God’s words through the prophet Isaiah when he writes, “I have called you by name, you are mine, you are precious to me, and I love you”?
At Christmas, we celebrate the Incarnation, when the Divine breaks into our humanity. The very life breath of God enters into a tabernacle of flesh, blood, and bone. Through this act of immense love, as Jesus takes on our cloak of humanness, we are told that we are enough. Through the mysteries of the Incarnation and Jesus’s death and Resurrection, we are reminded of our wholeness. Through the great mysteries of our faith, God claims us as Her own, rebirthing us as Children of Light.
What a necessary gift the season of Advent is!! It is often difficult to notice the ways God makes Themself known to us over the roaring din of the anxieties in our daily lives. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, Advent offers us the opportunity to slow down and notice all the ways God bursts into our humanity reminding us that we are loved. To recognize the ways He continues to shatter our fragility, looking into our eyes and gently whispering, “You are my child, my beloved. I have created you, all of you. I have called you by name, you are mine, you are precious, you are loved.”
Life is messy, uncomfortably unpredictable, and sometimes heartbreakingly painful, and yet in the face of all of this, we exist. The Source of All Love has created each of us as a small speck of light to drive back the weighty darkness through our love. The reason we exist, what draws us close to the Divine, the impetus at the very core of our beings, is to love and to be loved. Our task is to live into the fact that we are good, we are loved, and we are enough, allowing God to strip away everything that hides this truth from us, so that we can confidently step out of the muck of doubt and fear and let our love-light burn through the damp darkness around us, thereby truly setting the world on fire.
And so, tomorrow, as we return once again to Jesus, present in bread and wine, and taste the Incarnation, may you allow the Light of the World to shine in your darkness. May you experience God’s deep love for you. May you embody that love as you encounter the world around you. May you, in the words of St. Luke, “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21:28)