[This post is a reflection originally written for Diverse Church’s Advent Bible reflections series]
The thing that strikes me most about John the Baptist… is just how queer he is, prancing about about the desert, sporting sheep-skin chic… calling the powers that be, the mainstream, the powerful… to repent.
And the thing that strikes me most about his family… is just how ordinary they are.
As queer people, our relationships with our family are very much part of our public identity. People wonder whether it was something in our upbringing that made us queer… they want to know how our parents have reacted to our coming out, to know whether we are in fact out, and if not why not.
And for LGBTQ Christians, there is another level to the interest people show in us. They assume that our faith must be more of a struggle (sometimes it is) and that our relationship with our families must be harder as a result (sometimes that’s true, as well). They want to know how we came out as Christians… how it was different… how we were different…
And it strikes me how in fact we as Queer Christians seem to be the most queer, the most fascinating people of all.
Back to John the Baptist, shouting in the desert in a sheepskin. His family was powerful: part of the Church, if you like, as Jewish as you could be. His Dad was a priest: his parents both known for their holy living. There wasn’t anything funny going on with John the Baptist’s family.
So it wasn’t John the Baptist’s parents… or his upbringing… or his religion, that made him Queer. It was God who made him queer.
God took his child John, whom He knew and loved from before He was formed in Elizabeth’s womb… and called him to be different.
God took his child from a very ordinary family, a very Jewish family… and called him to be something nobody could expect… utterly different.
The amazing story of John’s conception and birth tells a truth that is far more astounding than angelic messages and holy prophecies. God knew each of us from before our conception, before anyone knew of the possibility of our existence… and knew that we were going to be queer…
… queer in gender
… queer in sexuality
… queer in all manner of things.
…but above all, to be queer in Christ. Before our existence was known, he called us to love his Son our Saviour.
John’s queerness wasn’t his clothes, weird as they were; or the manner of his conception, weird as that was. It was his queerness in Christ, his love for God, and his desire to show the world that love.
God bless you all.
In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, ‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’