What does Christmas mean to you? Each of us experiences the holiday differently. Some of us throw ourselves into the hustle and bustle of the season, decorating and baking until we’ve created a winter wonderland that would make Santa himself blush. Others of us give our time, volunteering for causes that are close to our hearts. Some of us are more mindful of being “nice,” while others indulge their “naughty” sides at holiday parties. If you are a religious person, you’ve probably already made plans to attend one (or more) church services – after all, “You can’t spell Christmas without Christ.”
For many years, the Christmas season was a difficult time of year for me. I grew up in the church and always tried to be “good” with varying degrees of success. As a child, I asked difficult questions in Sunday school that couldn’t be easily answered. In these cases, there was usually a default answer relating to the importance of faith, knowing that God loves us, and a reminder that if we don’t believe we won’t go to Heaven when we die (which is a lot nicer than saying that we’ll burn in Hell for all eternity if we don’t follow the instructions outlined in an ancient manuscript).
By the time I was a teenager I knew I was gay and that this was a big problem for my soul. I tried to pray away the gay so I could be “good,” but God didn’t seem to be interested in answering those particular prayers. I wondered why, especially because it seemed like such an easy fix for an omnipotent being.
Then, one Sunday, one of the teachers addressed the pink elephant in the room. They said that queer people are an affront to God and cannot be saved until we change our “unnatural, sinful” ways. In other words, God loved everyone but me. Talk about a harsh rejection.
I began to move away from religion and instead embraced my spirituality. Outside of the clearly defined parameters of religion, I began to find my own beliefs, moral code, and life’s purpose that didn’t involve a deity. I kept what worked from my religious upbringing and stashed the rest in a closet that now conveniently had a Brian-sized hole in it.
Gradually I began to see the world, and Christmas, differently. I no longer tried to make myself understand how a virgin could give birth beneath a bright, blazing star beckoning to three wise men bringing the worst baby shower gifts in recorded history. Instead of focusing on the literal, I looked to the figurative. That’s how I found my version of the spirit of Christmas.
A child born in winter, evergreen trees and garlands, sparkling lights in a season of darkness – all these things celebrate the human need to believe that good things are possible, even in the most unlikely circumstances. We embrace life in a season of death, light in the face of darkness, hope that is both vital and unfounded. We come together with loved ones, bringing joy and life to silent nights of gently falling snow. We prove to ourselves that we are alive, that we are strong enough to weather the season, and we celebrate and give thanks to those who help us along our journey.
Half a lifetime later, I’m glad that my prayers to become straight weren’t answered because I wouldn’t be the person I am now. I like that person because I am the person I want to be and not the person I’m supposed to be. This season, my wish for you is that you love yourself as you are, that you find your own light to illuminate the darkness, and that you spread the joy that is uniquely and personally yours with the world because this is our purpose and this is the spirit of Christmas.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.