|A Message of Freedom at Christmas|
A Message of Freedom at Christmas
A good City Harvest friend replied my Christmas greeting reflecting that “Christmas is nothing significant to him” so contrary to a time when he was so fervent for God and Pastor Kong, and for the message of God’s blessings and prosperity preached at City Harvest. The joy of Christmas, the sound of people getting large bonuses and shopping, the smiling crowds and children eagerly waiting for presents, makes it particularly hard for those who are lonely, saddened by life’s circumstances. The joy in the community is contrasted with the sadness within of memories of what could have been. We begin to reflect on the people we missed, whose sound and memories comes back to us of past Christmases when they were there. Our memories wander to the past, making our current loneliness and despair more profound of hopes dashed and disappointed longings.
Christmas is not only a Holiday or a rest day, nor is Christmas just about love. It is about God coming to earth as a little baby, into our broken world. He came at a very dark time of history for the Jews, with Jerusalem occupied by the Romans. The Jews were looking for a mighty God, their theological construction derived as best they could from the bible, but Jesus came as a gentle and harmless baby totally contradicting their theology. The creator of Universe came into our World, the mystery, no longer a mystery. The God whom Moses was only allowed to peek at the back, with no unique name other than “I am”, came into mankind that we might know Him. We have groped in the dark, worshipping various gods, and in a momentous moment of history, the true God revealed Himself to us.
For many in the GLBT community, they would have little to do with Christmas except a time of seasonal greetings, shopping, holidays in Bangkok, and maybe the time to visit friends from their former churches. Perhaps Christmas reminds us of the time we have been fervent for God, until our sexual orientation became the issue and we left the church. Christmas became a reminder for us of the church and ultimately our theological construction of the Christ who had apparently rejected us.
Perhaps our theological construction of Christ had been wrong, much like the Jews being totally wrong of how they had perceived the Messiah to be. It is a mistaken identity, the image of Christ based on a Christianity which is not much different from the conservative Judaism that Jesus had to contend with that was devoid of God’s love, grace and mercy. During this season of Christmas, I believe that God’s message is that He is for the Gay community and not against it contrary to mainstream Christianity.
Jesus came as a baby, a child, a human so that we can relate to Him, Him to us. He came down to our level, so that we can have a relationship with Him. The GLBT community has long been estranged from God, fearing that God might treat them as sinners solely because they were gay. It is time, we begin to accept that God loves us, loves us wholly including our sexual orientation. We have been rejecting ourselves for God does not reject us. God is our friend today, up close and personal and not the God afar off at Mt Sinai where the Jews stayed a distance away. Jesus made it personal and today, He offers us a welcome Home individually.
We have believed in a lie that homosexuality was a sin, a lie perpetuated by the institutionalized church not that they cared but for their own selfish purpose and theology to make sure that the bible makes sense to them. Gays are the sacrificial lamb for their narrow religious dogma. We have a freedom of religion to worship God but not the freedom to cause harm in the name of our religious rights. When they preached hate from the pulpit disguised as love, they are only loving themselves fearing that God’s mercy and grace to the GLBT community might open a flood gate to heaven that they could not control!.
They wanted heaven for themselves and gays out just as they wanted marriage just for themselves and gays be put into prisons. But Jesus was different than those who today supposedly “represents” Him, but knew not His heart of mercy. Christmas is filled with celebrations and rejoicing tonight with Christmas carols sung at midnight to welcome baby Jesus. Yet the voices of those who died who took their lives faced with the strong condemnation from the Christian Right will not be heard. They are not here tonight to sing the Christmas Carols, their hearts long ago broken by the rejection of many simply because they were gay.
Jesus tonight hears the cries and hearts of the GLBT community longing for a hope and for acceptance, longing for their own salvation in the Messiah. Tonight, Jesus the Messiah, welcomes us to His birthday party in heaven. We like the wise men, the shepherds, the gentle lambs, pay our homage to the birth of baby Jesus tonight, and He welcomes us to His birthday party to His table of feasting.
What is our prayer tonight? What presents do we desire from Jesus? The greatest present is God Himself making His presence known to humanity, and tonight my heart call is for Jesus to make Himself known to the GLBT community this coming year, as a God who loves and accepts them. When God is for us, who can be against us? When God loves us, we begin to love ourselves. When God calls us clean, we are clean indeed.
It has been more than 11 years since I walked passed the safety of the closed roller shutter doors at the Old Hollywood theatre in Tanjung Pagar on Christmas Night. Whilst others were rejoicing, I was saddened by the realization that I must move on, to find myself, to find God in a midst of a hostile church against gays I moved away from the bustling sound of Hillsongs worship on Sunday, to the quiet desert of life where everything seems empty and dry yet the still voice of God becomes clearer without the noise of life.
In the dryness of life in the desert, God’s grace and mercy became the fresh waters of life. The rare pools of water in the desert become a refreshing sanctuary of praise where I met Jesus and sat at His feet, listening and learning from God. In the journey through the hot searing sun, our religious pride, self righteousness and theological construction begins to be burned up during the day. Our faces are hardened by the cruel harsh winds of life, staring at adversity yet moving forward to find God and meaning through the trials and tribulations.
Tonight, I am returning back Home. The mega church at the Old Hollywood theatre has moved on to Jurong/Expo and soon to Suntec, but the closet roller shutters of the heart have been rolled back to love and be in communion with God. The doors of my heart and mind are opening again, the times of exile in the desert soon over. I am beginning to learn to love myself, as much as I love God, for surely this is the real message of Christmas. We have the freedom to worship Jesus when we are free to love ourselves.