As you may know by now, we’re taking a break this December to work on things behind the scenes. We are reorganizing and redesigning the website to make it more helpful for everyone. Also, we are taking this time to brainstorm on how to make the podcast even better. So stay tuned for that. Until then, here’s one of our favorite Christmas-themed podcasts.
The birth of Jesus brings out a lot of emotions and learnings for Christianity, but most especially to queer folks. As we fight against injustice and oppression, we sometimes get frustrated at ourselves, at our lack of power, and our lack of time. But the narrative reminds us of someone who was born a child, learned His way through life and experience, and ultimately fulfilled His purpose on Earth. So take the time to learn. Breathe deeply. Be patient.
Brian: Welcome to the Queer Theology podcast!
Fr. Shay: Where each episode, we take a queer look at the week’s lectionary readings. We’re the co-founders of QueerTheology.com and the hosts for this podcast. I’m Father Shay Kearns
B: And I’m Brian G. Murphy.
FS: Welcome back to the Queer Theology podcast, Father Shay here. Brian and I are taking a bit of a break for the month of December. So we’re replaying some of our favorite episodes from Advent and Christmas’ past. We hope you enjoy them!
This week, Brian and I are looking at the lectionary text for December 22 and we are gonna take a look at the Matthew text which is Matthew 1:18-24 which is a pretty common one read around this time of the year. One of the birth narratives of Jesus. So Brian, what comes up for you when you read this?
B: I’m really glad that we get to look at this passage because my understanding of this story from when I was an Evangelical to how I understand this today is just so different. I think it really sort of highlights the value that Queer Theology brings to people. Not just Queer Theology, but progressive theology, liberation theology. And so what sticks out to me is that Jesus the Messiah, was born to an unwed woman living under occupation in the Middle East right? I mean that’s just not at all how I imagined Jesus being born. After his birth, they have to flee, so they’re immigrants. So I think it’s really interesting where God chooses to become incarnate and dwell among us and with whom. Right from the very beginning, right from the birth of Jesus, God is doing that in the margins. As a Queer Christian who finds himself marginalized through times, I find that really powerful to imagine that God didn’t come to the seat of power. He came to the margins.
What about you Shay?
FS: You know I resonate with all of that for sure. I think also in this passage, I’m fascinated by Joseph and it’s funny because the different birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, they are so different. In this one, pretty much the whole thing is told through Joseph’s perspective. I just find him to be this, a really fascinating figure. Obviously, he was engaged to be married and finds out his beloved or his betrothed is pregnant from the Holy Spirit. And he tries to do right by her. I’m just really kind of touched by that. Also, fascinated by the fact that he then kind of disappears from the narrative. Like he is around for Jesus’ birth and then he’s gone. So I have a lot of questions about what happened to Joseph and what role did he have in Jesus’ life. I think that’s a really fascinating story.
There was this great scene in the nativity story which as a film – there are things to quibble with. There’s this lovely scene where he and Mary are on the road to Bethlehem and they’re finally talking about how they feel about what’s happening to them. Joseph says to Mary, “I wonder if I’ll be able to teach him anything.” I thought it was such a touching moment in the film and showed the humanity of this man about to become a father, but clearly, there’s something special about this kid, and so what do you do with that? I think that’s really interesting.
B: I’m also fascinating – or think it’s powerful, that at one point the Messiah was a child, and Joseph probably did teach him things, and Mary and Joseph fed him and clothe him. He went and learned in the synagogue. So, not to compare myself to Jesus [laughs] but, I think that we’re all on our own journeys and we don’t come into this world knowing everything. So if the Christ can be born a child and have to learn, certainly Brian G. Murphy, who is trying to be a better person and live my life justly, surely I have things to learn as well. To give myself permission to not get hung up when I mess up or when I don’t know something. To always be learning and growing so that I can continue that journey of growth.
FS: Yeah, I mean if you think about it, Jesus didn’t really start His ministry until He was in His 30’s. So I wonder, too, and I think this is a really important point. It took Him a while to find what exactly was that He was called to do. It took Him 30 years to start His public ministry and we don’t really know what He was doing during that time. But one would assume that He was learning. One would assume that living under occupation was shaping His consciousness and was maybe creating in Him an activist spirit that was getting ready, but that He wasn’t ready until He was 30 to really start a movement. I think that’s something that’s – I often feel impatient, right? Or I’m too old to be doing anything, and I’m 33…
B: Time to get crucified! [laughs]
FS: Time to get crucified right? But sometimes worried that like: “Oh man! I’ve missed out on being able to be a part of the movement.” It’s like, “No! It takes time, just chill out and it will happen.”
B: Yeah. I think also that’s a good reminder to me as a white man that I often feel this, “Oh! Now I learned about something and now I wanna fix it!” Sometimes it takes time to learn enough and formulate a plan and talk with other people before you launch your movement. So to folks in all different strides, it’s okay to be patient. Maybe at the first sight of injustice, you gotta have to start your own movement, but take the time to learn and be shaped by experiences around you. And when the time comes to enter Jerusalem and take the stand, ride in on a donkey and take your stand, but it’s okay to build the movement.
FS: We hope you enjoyed this vintage Queer Theology podcast. Just as a reminder, we are taking a break for the month of December so that we can regroup, and recoup, and head into the New Year feeling fresh. If you want to support us, you can go to patreon.com/queertheology. Your support is making all of the difference in making this work sustainable. We’ll see you next time.
[outro music plays]
B: The Queer Theology podcast is just one of many things that we do at QueerTheology.com which provides resources, community, and inspiration for LGBTQ Christians and straight cisgender supporters.
FS: To dive into more of the action, visit us at QueerTheology.com. You can also connect with us online: on Facebook, Tumbler, Twitter, and Instagram.
B: We’ll see you next week.
Today’s episode highlights:
- What’s up with Matthew’s birth narrative?
- What does it mean that the child Jesus was born where and when he was?
- What can we learn from this story as queer people?
- Brian and Shay tackle a common Christmas story and put a queer spin on it.
Thank you for listening to this podcast. If this or any of our podcasts mean something to you, or you find the articles and videos transformative, engaging and inspiring we would like to ask for your support in order for us to continue with this work and touch more lives. It would mean the world to us if you can visit and support us at patreon.com/queertheology.
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled:
Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son,
And they will call him, Emmanuel.
(Emmanuel means “God with us.”)
When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife.
Photo by Pro Church Media