Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Mary is indispensable in Christianity. Without her faith, Jesus may not have been the leader he was on Earth. She is at the heart of the story of salvation. In Luke 1:46-55, Mary proclaims a radical message of social justice where the lowly are lifted up and the powerful are brought down. In John 2:1-12, Mary initiates Jesus’ ministry at the Wedding of Cana (when Jesus turns water to wine) and remains with Jesus till the very end: his death and burial (John 19:25). She is also present at the Pentecost, the birth of the church. As an LGBTQ+ person or ally, images of Mary’s power, leadership, courage and passion should be an inspiration for us. As a woman of the ancient world when women were little more than property, Mary empower all of us who are marginalized to be a “servant of the Lord” and spread His message of love and acceptance to others.
Mary’s response to Gabriel of, “How can this be, since I have never been with a man?” illustrates the definition of theology as “faith seeking understanding.” Mary asks the angel Gabriel how she might come to understand what it is she believes. Her active love for God seeks a deeper knowledge of God. As an LGBTQ+ Christians, we often seek a better understanding of our faith. God’s narrative has been perverted by those with an agenda of hate that they thinly disguise as their version of Christianity. My religious beliefs are personal to me. I rarely go to church, but I often converse privately with God.
With the strong emphasis on birth and the celebration of family during the Christmas season, the global LGBTQ+ family feels connected to the spirit of the season when many in the community may not have access to marriage, love, companionship, and family. Many in the LGBTQ+ community also struggle with the holiday season because they struggle with acceptance from their family. Some remain closeted, other remain distant, many find their own family. Walt Whitman said, “I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.” For many of us, that is never truer than during the holidays. Because when we are with the family we choose, we feel the love and acceptance that we sometimes don’t get from our biological families. The write Richard Bach said, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” The writer Trenton Lee Stewart similarly said, “You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.”
Mary is a strong reminder of God’s love. From her flight into Egypt, to protect her unborn son from the edict of Herod (Matthew 2:13), to her presence at the foot of the Cross (John 19:25), Mary has always situated herself next to the historical Jesus. We can expand and develop this mother/son narrative, so that it may become the bedrock of a foundation wherein families, and especially parents, are united with their LGBTQ+ children, are there to support them, and commit themselves to speak up as advocates for their children. We can use the lessons of Mary and her son Jesus to advocate for a better world. In Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience, veteran and inspirational speaker Steve Maraboli wrote, “Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” To me, that’s the perfect message for Christmas and one I believe Mary helped instill in her Son.