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Will You Hold the Baby?

This is my Christmas prayer.

When I was a teenager, I made a painful break from my Catholic church and school. I witnessed and experienced dishonesty, failure to protect children from abusers, dehumanization, and hypocrisy. I reached out to a fellow lost sheep of the flock who was neither white nor straight (which mattered very much in our faith community), and together we brokered a deal with our parents that we would go to church every Sunday if only they didn't make us go to this one. Our parents reluctantly agreed, and so we went on an odyssey of visiting a different house of worship each Sunday, in an earnest search for God.

We found God, many times over.

We found God at the Hindu temple, in the priest who didn't speak our language but who presented us with fresh oranges from the feet of the gods on their garlanded altars.

We found God in the crowds of fellow humans just as lost and confused as our own Catholics, looking for secret codes in the rantings of mystics.

We found it at a Spanish-language Christmas Mass with a real, live Baby Jesus in all his chubby, Mexican divinity. The Christ Child slept through the entire service, warm and serene beneath the portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the same Lady our own church members had called to be taken down from the wall on account of being "foreign." (Make the sign of the cross, kiss your hand.)

We sang a Christmas lullaby and rocked the Baby Jesus in a hammock, all of us, together. The Baby never woke, and the congregation never doubted His safety. As we sang, we passed Him up and down every aisle, the hammock swinging between the hands of people on either side, passed down from one to another all around the church. All of us were cradled. All of us were rocked.

And then it was over, and my friend and I were on the fringe again, strangers crashing someone else's party, crossing our arms over our invisible scarlet letters for being a heretic and a queer. But there had been a moment of hope that night when our hearts almost stopped beating as we were invited to hold the baby.

when God is Guatemalan

My friend and I never made it to the end of the worship section of the phone book before we gave up our search, but after college, I discovered a Unitarian Universalist church through a job ad in the newspaper. (Quaint, no?)

The broken-hearted teen within me was moved by the church's out, proud affirmation of every gender identity and sexual orientation. The child within me awoke to this place where doubts and questions were nurtured, rather than silenced, where people of many faiths or lack thereof could gather to search for truth together, among others who didn't claim to have all the answers.

At the UU pageant, Baby Jesus was a tiny, red-headed girl. Oh, Pink Christmas Cheer!

If God is not a gender or a race, then the race and gender of the Christ Child are irrelevant.

But because of racism and sexism, the representation of the Christ Child as not-white-and-male is not irrelevant. It is everything.

This I believe:

when God is Caribbean
Every child is the incarnation of human survival and hope for a brighter future. And some of us need to see and touch that hope more than others. Why else did Jesus befriend those most in need of healing?

No child comes into this world a blank slate. We inherit not only our ancestors' physical traits but some of their experiences as well. Our DNA is marked with the times our parents and grandparents experienced traumas such as war, starvation, poisoning, disease, and child abuse. Every baby is born with those scars encoded in the genes.

And every child born is a chance to heal those scars and end the passage of pain from one generation to the next. Sometimes, all it takes to heal is to hold and to be held.

This time, will you hold the baby?


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