Bearing the Light of Advent with Holy Women Icons

by Rev . Dr. Angela Yarber

As much as we want to share gratitude during the season of Thanksgiving, prepare for the hope of Advent, or celebrate Christmas, it’s difficult because the holiday season can be tough for queer folks.

Disproportionately estranged from family means we often must create our own family.

While these chosen families can be tremendously life-giving, it’s tough not to long for our families of origin during the holidays. Many still in relationship with family are forced to retreat to the closet for fear of safety or exclusion this season. And some queer folk who have affirming families of origin still experience the twang of heteronormativity in holiday commercials, family events, and church services throughout Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas.

There’s a reason why many refer to it as “Blue Christmas,” because, well, the holidays can leave us feeling pretty blue when our identities are invalidated, excluded, questioned, or marginalized.

Added to this is the lengthening of night and shortening of days as winter draws closer. We find ourselves searching for light amidst the chaos of the holidays while the sun sets earlier and earlier each day. As one way of aiding us in this search for affirming light, love, and hope throughout the holidays, I’ve created a series of Advent Daily Reflections: “Holy Women Icons Bearing the Light.”

In these daily Advent reflections, a Holy Woman Icon offers readers ways of bearing light in the world.

Whether it is Mary teaching us to wait for light,Gloria Anzalduá teaching us to bridge the light, Aurora teaching us to invoke the light, or Maya Angelou teaching us to embolden the light, each daily reflection includes an image of the icon, a brief reflection about how she bears light, an intention for the day, questions for contemplation, and a blessing.

Because we need ways of queering the holidays, there are myriad revolutionary queer women featured throughout the Advent Daily Reflections, offering us examples for bearing the light throughout the season. Tiamat, a Babylonian goddess syncretistically woven into the Judeo-Christian creation narrative of Genesis, stirs alongside the feminine ruah to birth the world into being. Queer understandings of Mary subvert traditional interpretations of Jesus’ mother in iterations of Mary, Guadalupe, La Negrita, the Virgin of Caridad, and the Virgin of Regla.

Pauli Murray, the first black woman ordained as an Episcopal priest and a queer civil rights attorney, teaches us to subvert the light. The Mothers of Black Lives Matter remind us of the queer origins of the movement as they galvanize us to wake the light this season. Painter Georgia O’Keeffe, long known as a feminist bisexual artist, ushers in creativity as we seek the light. And Gloria Anzalduá provides us with tools for bridging the light between polarities.

Have you ever felt that you need tools, methods, examples, tactics for bridging the divide that exists between your queer self and homophobic family members? Do you yearn for glimmers of light-filled hope throughout a nostalgic season that often leaves you feeling less than warm and fuzzy? Do you want to learn about other revolutionary queers who have carved pathways, subverted the season, and created new ways of bearing light in the world?

If so, many of these holy women can offer you the tools, glimmers, and pathways you’re longing for. 

The season of Advent truly is all about longing, hoping, preparing the way. But many of us queers have been longing and hoping for far too long. Longing for equality. Hoping for acceptance. Yearning for ways to queerly celebrate our faith throughout the holidays. There are many beautiful ways to do this, from celebrating your chosen family to setting concrete boundaries with family who do not fully celebrate who you are. Because you who are is fabulous and amazing and beloved. Nothing less.

If you want another beautiful way of bearing your queer light this season, check out the Advent Daily Reflections. Reflections are accessed directly on an individual’s computer or mobile device with a daily email reminder. The daily reflections include an Advent reflection emailed to you every day throughout the entire season of Advent.

No matter what you do or where you go throughout the holiday season, know that you are loved. Know that you are worthwhile.

Know that the light shining within you is worth sharing.

Bear your light with pride.