Finally, I thought as I placed a mat in front of our door. Now our doorway matched the other three that open onto the breezeway. We are no longer the odd one out.
On a Zoom call that week, a friend’s beautifully decorated Christmas tree shimmered in the background. She loves decorating her house for Christmas. Others noticed it too and talked about how this Christmas tradition sparks joy.
I didn’t add my thoughts to the conversation. You may recall reading in previous Advent posts that neither Fred nor I “deck the halls” for Christmas. Our Christmas decorating is minimal at best.
I felt a familiar tension: I should be decorating but, I don’t want to. A familiar angst: What will others think of me when they see few signs of Christmas in our place? A familiar plea: Can’t we just skip this season altogether?
Recently someone I know who is queer came out. I didn’t try to reassure them that it was okay as if this was something to endure. I cheered. I was so happy for them that they can celebrate being who they are.
A thought arrived. What if I didn’t just get through this season? What if I celebrated how I observe this season and appreciate how others observe it differently?
What if I came out of the closet and declared that I am a non-decorating Christmas observer? Imagining it doesn’t bring me comfort or joy. It would be awkward. Whenever you do something different from others you risk being judged by them, or others may feel judged and compelled to defend their preference.
Being different from others takes a certain amount of courage. It requires us to lean into the reality that our belonging doesn’t come from being like others or even being liked by them. It’s something inherently ours. It’s grounded in a Love we always have and can never lose.
I think about the relief I felt when our doorway finally matched the other three. It was palpable. Something in us likes to fit in. I thought about that as I descended the outside stairs in our building. At the landing, I glanced at the four doorways of the condos underneath ours. Two had doormats and two didn’t.
We don’t all have to match.
Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
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Advent 1: Claim Your God-Given Identity
This Advent, I invite you to reflect on the Annunciation. We will pause in four places of the story. The first place is the greeting Mary hears. The angel tells her she is favoured by God. No matter what she thinks of herself, she is loved and favoured by her Creator. Jesus heard God’s voice. “You are my beloved son, in you I am well pleased.” What do you hear God saying to you? Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me so I have loved you.” We are no less loved and delighted in than Mary and Jesus were.
When you light the first advent candle, perhaps you’d like to take a moment in the silence to listen for God’s greeting to you. What loving words do you hear? Claim it as true. Henri Nouwen once said, “To pray is to listen to the One who calls you ‘my beloved daughter,’ ‘my beloved son,’ ‘my beloved child.’ To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.”