By Ven. Megan Collings-Moore
‘I’ll be home for Christmas…'
When the carols start playing, with their sentimental images of happy families all gathered together, does your stress level rise? Do you start to become anxious?
When I worked on campus, that was true for many students. Young adults who had moved away from home, and now were beginning to think about going home for the Christmas break, would appear in my office, terrified about what might happen when they went home. For many of them, being away meant they could openly embrace their sexuality and/or gender identity. Home was a place where they had not yet come out. Sometimes ‘home’ was a place of harm, a place where they would not be accepted or even safe.
I spent much of December each year planning with students about how they could survive (sometimes literally) going home for Christmas. Over the years, I managed to learn some decent questions to ask. I think these are helpful to consider, whether you are the person going home to an unaccepting environment, or if you are hosting a gathering and not sure how everyone will act towards each other. I think these are helpful questions to consider for LGBTQ2S+ folks, but also for people who may be newly bereaved, or have experienced trauma.
The first thing to consider is do you have to go home? Does there need to be a big family gathering? What happens if you don’t go? Or if you do not host? Are there ways of getting together with family in a different way, perhaps in a public space like a restaurant? Or perhaps there can be meals at someone’s house, but people are given the option of staying elsewhere? If you must stay with family, can you plan to be out much of the time, whether going to a friend’s house, or for a walk, or to the mall?
Next, who are the safe people you can count on for support? Are there friends from high school who still live in the area and you could visit? Are there particular relatives who will be more accepting? Can you set up a regular phone or online check in with friends where you currently live, with people who will help remind you that you are still loved?
I would like to say that all of this is unnecessary. But I still recall a friend of mine from university who went home at Christmas, came out to his parents, and was kicked out of the house. His father never spoke to him again. If you fear that something similar could happen to you, please make plans for who might be able to help.
Our culture treats Christmas with a sentimental nostalgia. But the Christian story tells of a baby born in a barn, alone with his parents, in an era where extended family should have been more involved. The early disciples left family and friends to follow Jesus. And Jesus himself made it clear that he understood family to be defined not by blood, but as “those who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:21).
This Christmas, seek out those places where people are striving to live as Christians, where they work hard at really loving others, places where you can be welcomed as the person you truly are. Commit yourself this Christmas, to reach out to those who need shelter, who need a safe space or a safe ear. For in so doing, you welcome the One who knows suffering, and yet is the Creator of all.
May you have a blessed and safe Christmas season.
Ven. Megan Collings-Moore is a member of Proud Anglicans of Huron, and the archdeacon of North (Saugeens; Huron-Perth; Waterloo).