The season of Advent guides us on a journey from darkness to light, from recognizing our great need for God to finding God’s love born in a manger. When I read Advent hymns and carols I’m deeply struck by the groans and pains of humanity crying out for the living God. Crying out for justice, crying out for brutality and war to stop. Each year as I re-read these texts I am grateful to hear God’s promise to bring comfort, peace, justice and love.

In Advent we are called to be awake, alive, aware, ready, thirsty for justice, hungry for righteousness.

We are called to keep our lamps lit and have plenty of fuel. We look for words from the watchman, “tell us of the night.” In singing these hymns we are able to not only see God’s desire to give release to the captive and liberty to those oppressed but we are called to find Christ in those very “ones” Christ came to save. Just as Jesus arrived on this earth as an outcast; the lost and the least are the very ones where we can find Christ Incarnate.

Mary is the most powerful image for me personally in the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany story.

Mary’s willingness to serve God transcends a resignation of her plight; her willingness to accept God’s will was a “yes” spoken in Mary’s heart to be who she really is and to say yes to fully be who God created her to be. Surrender to God’s will in my life sometimes seems an unsurmountable obstacle; saying yes to God’s call deep within my heart often leads to a journey with risk, danger and loss, but always leads towards authenticity, honesty and openness.

I know all trans persons stories are different but when I made space in my heart to speak the question of gender it was one of those moments of surrender to God, a moment filled both with terror and delight.

The journey has also led to a refiners fire. So much of my life has been a lot burned away but this changed landscape has allowed new growth and opportunities beyond my dreams.

We are already more than half way through Advent but as a life long church musician there is still much work on my plate in the coming days. Fortunately, I’m finished with all the Advent clergy stoles and banners which I create for a living so my focus can now turn to my local church. The place where Advent has become most real in my life this year has been working with a group of delightful children. I’ve had the pleasure of spending an hour a week co-teaching a hands on music class for these young folks for over 6 months. We don’t have any children attending our church right now so we offered this free class to children of other congregations who rent portions of our very large and mostly empty church building. With a few “ringers” who have joined our ranks for support we will be able to provide a simple yet effective Christmas Program in a few days. This group of kids won’t be going to Symphony hall to sing any time soon but they have learned and grown. I have also learned and grown and we are creating together a space where learning and music can happen.

We have no idea where this ministry will go and it’s OK if it doesn’t go anywhere because Christ has been made incarnate in our joining together.

I don’t think it’s easy to sing Mary’s Song. This time of the year can be particularly hard for us in the transgender and gender non-conforming group. Many of us have lost ties (or seen ties greatly loosen) with those we held dear. All too often these folks are still very much alive but see us as merely sinful lost souls on a road growing closer to hell’s door each and every day. Since beginning my transition I still have contact with my parents but am no longer welcome in their home. They are supportive in a few ways but for the most part the ties that bound us together are so loose it’s hard for me to feel close to my parents at all.

This is a terrible loss but saying yes to God’s call in my heart to be who God created me to be and not just how others defined me gives me life beyond life. This authenticity helps keep me singing with Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Did you know that RMN has a transgender extension ministry? We’re the United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion (UMATI). Learn more about us on RMN’s website, or join our Facebook group.

Grace Cox-Johnson

Grace Cox-Johnson is currently the artist in residence at Color 4 the Journey, a company specializing in banners and fabric art for churches and clergy. She is a proud parent of two adult children and lives with her partner Mike in Kansas City, MO. Grace, formally trained as a church musician, has served in a variety of ways through the arts and Christian education within the context of the local, regional and national levels of the greater church. She joyfully sings in the choir at Linwood United Church in between travels leading banner and "holy hardware" workshops across the country.

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