“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2: 4-7).
Christmas is, at its heart, a story of hospitality; Christmas is a story of welcome, of making room for the Christ child. In her fiat, Mary says “yes” to becoming the mother of God; she physically makes room in her womb to carry this child. Though Mary and Joseph are unmarried and uncertain how their community will accept them, they make room with a “yes,” that changes the trajectory of their lives. Once the Holy Family arrive in Bethlehem, the innkeeper makes room in his stable and Christ is born there, spending his first nights in a manger. The wise men, the shepherds, the Angels, make room to announce, to travel, to worship, to honor the newborn king. Christmas is the story of the earth breaking open to make room for Immanuel, Christ with us, the God-made-flesh who pitched his tent among us.
In a reflection entitled, “Room for Christ” Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker movement, calls all baptized Christians to this ministry of hospitality when she declares, “It is no use to say that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late. Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts” (The Catholic Worker, December 1945, 2). Because we are all made in the image of Christ and reflect Christ to each other and the world, we can seek Christ in each other, service Christ in each other. The hospitality we offer to ordinary humans we offer to Christ himself (cf. Matthew 25: 31-46).
As I walk through this holiday season, preparing to celebrate Christmas and go on pilgrimage in January, I wonder what it would look like if our Church lived into Christmas and practiced hospitality to the LGBTQI community. What would it look like if the church were to take seriously this call and make room for LGBTQI Catholics?
In the spirit of Holy Imagination, I envision a church who makes room for, and practices Christmas with, LGBTQI Catholics in the following ways:
- The church could make room in their lexicon to call us by our name. We are not “homosexuals” or “same sex attracted;” we identify ourselves as LGBTQI Catholics.
- The church could make room for LGBTQI Catholics by recognizing our relationships, blessing our partnerships or perhaps even celebrating our marriages; Christmas is the word “husband” or “wife” spoken without fear to identify those we love.
- The church could make room for gender diverse Catholics in rituals that honor transition, such as liturgies that celebrate new names and pronouns and formally welcome gender living into their authentic gender into the church community.
- The church could make room in its parishes, schools and institutions to employ us; the church could welcome our service on the parish council, as catechists, school teachers and youth leaders. LGBTQI Catholics have talents to share with our community; Christmas is accepting the gifts we bring.
Perhaps most simply, the church could make room for LGBTQI Catholics by listening to our stories and honoring the work the Holy Spirit is doing in us. We too seek holiness; Christmas recognizes our good work and the light of Christ we nurture in our families, homes and communities.