In 2009, I created my own gay and lesbian nativity scenes for the Christmas season. One had two Marys at the manger with the baby Jesus, and the other featured two Josephs with the Christ child.
I put Mary with Mary and Joseph with Joseph—just like putting two brides or two grooms on top of a wedding cake!
Obviously this is not about historical accuracy, but I believe my nativity scenes are true to the spirit of the Christmas story in the Bible: God’s child conceived in an extraordinary way and born into disreputable circumstances. I also filmed a video about my gay and lesbian manger scenes and even made them available as Christmas cards.
Go ahead an imagine that Jesus has two mommies. According to the Bible story, Joseph was an adoptive father anyway. The Virgin Mary had Jesus without sex with a man, much like lesbian mothers who use artificial insemination.
Love makes a family—including the Holy Family.
I got the idea for queering the crèche last year when I heard that a gay and lesbian Nativity scene was planned for the 2008 “Pink Christmas” festival in Amsterdam. Live actors were supposed to play a pair of Marys and a pair of Josephs. I had my own lesbian Christian spiritual awakening while waiting for the event.
I remembered going to a huge exhibit of Nativity scenes back when I was a young lesbian in seminary. They had hundreds of statues of Mary, Joseph and baby portrayed as every conceivable racial and ethnic identity. Not once did I consider that my own community was missing—there was no lesbian version with Mary and another woman. Nor was there a gay version with Joseph and another man.
Looking back some 20 years later, it finally occurred to me that LGBT families should be represented in the mix. I had a personal breakthrough as I realized that my mind was still trapped in heterosexual assumptions about the cast of characters at Jesus’ birth.
I imagined that the Amsterdam LGBT community would enact Nativity scenes of loving lesbian and gay families like those that I have known.
Scenes of a lesbian Madonna and her female partner with the baby Jesus have been created by artists such as Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin of Sweden and Becki Jayne Harrelson of Atlanta. But this was the first time that I’ve seen a gay Joseph and his male partner with the Christ child.
The Pink Christmas event turned out to be a disappointment to me. It featured a drag queen and a leather daddy who seemed like a parody of themselves, with no loving “family” connection to each other whatsoever. You can read my thoughts about the event on my blog.
Fortunately, the Amsterdam event planted the idea in my mind for making the manger scene my own as a lesbian Christian. I feel more connected to God every time I look at the loving lesbian and gay manger scenes in our living room. My partner and I even toyed with the idea of getting two sets of Nativity lawn decorations and turning our yard into a big old queer Christmas display. Maybe next year!
I also invite others to make their own queer nativity scenes.
Rearranging the Holy Family is not as simple as it seems. Be sure to buy a set with freestanding figures. In many cases Mary, Joseph and Jesus are wedded together in one inseparable, three-headed blob. What does that say about our attachment to idealized, sanctified heterosexuality?
When you find freestanding figures, just get two standard nativity sets, then mix and match. Please email me a photo of your creation and I’ll post it at the Jesus in Love Blog. I bought identical nativity sets, but I’d love to see couples that come from different sets—a dark-skinned Mary with a light-skinned Mary, for example.
Everyone should be able to see themselves in the Christmas story, including the growing number of LGBT parents and their children.
Photo by Rev. Kittredge Cherry; Adapted from a post on Jesus In Love blog