Today’s reflection is by Bondings 2.0 contributor Allison Connelly-Vetter, whose bio is available here.
Advent is my favorite liturgical season. The songs, rituals, and prayers marking the four weeks before Jesus’ birth keep me grounded in the present, a liturgical refusal to trade spiritual Christmas preparation for material Christmas preparation. I am reminded by John the Baptist and the archangel Gabriel that something big is coming: a new leader towards a new life in a new world.
This year, my Advent practice, my re-orientation towards that new world, feels a little more desperate and a little more urgent.
At midnight on November 20, 2022, the last Sunday before Advent began, five people were murdered and twenty-five more injured in the mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, as people celebrated and danced. This horrific act of anti-queer violence occurred on Trans Day of Remembrance, when I and many others were already mourning and remembering the more than 35 trans and non-binary people killed in 2022. I was filled with grief and rage: at this one, specific act of violence at Club Q, and at the many, many acts of violence against trans people across the country.
And I was already raging. Earlier that same week I learned that one of my friends had died in June. Although the cause of my friend’s death was not revealed by her family, it was sudden, tragic, unexpected, and preventable. Aside from my shock and the yucky feeling that I had been texting and emailing and otherwise reaching out to this dead friend for the past five months, I have been furiously pissed off that she died. Her death was absolutely and outrageously preventable, because society failed her in every way imaginable. My friend needed aid like housing, healthcare, transportation—and forgiveness from her church for a mistake she deeply regretted.
People often respond to deaths like my friend’s with calls to “check on those you love” because we never know who might be struggling. I’m not denying the importance of personal connections. But individual emotional and material support is no match for the overwhelming and systemic denial of basic dignity, care, and resources affecting so many.
There is no reason for my friend to have died when and how she did, but people with power made pain and isolation like hers not only possible, but inevitable.
Like her death, every single act of violence against a trans or queer person, and those who inhabit trans and queer spaces, is entirely, infuriatingly preventable. Especially their deaths. Individual acts of violence are entirely enabled and empowered by systemic homophobia, transphobia, and the societal worship of weapons of death. No amount of individual support wholly overcomes these systems.
This Advent, I believe—I have to believe— in the coming of a new world. I believe that Jesus is coming with new promises, new capacities, a new way of living and being in relationship in which death by oppression is simply impossible. Jesus was born into a community that was crushed by Roman imperialism, with people dying preventable deaths, persecuted for their culture and identities, with a constant threat of violence and hatred. They were as desperate for liberation as I am.
Jesus risked everything he had—his friendships, his family relationships, his reputation, and his life—on the belief that the world does not have to be this way. Jesus knows intimately my outrage and distress, and still promises that we, collectively, are capable of co-creating something better than this, better than violence and isolation and despair, better than murdering trans people and better than terrorizing gay bars and better than abandoning Mad or mentally ill people to die too young and too alone. Jesus comes into this world: God, the Creator of every star and toenail, among us in flesh and blood, to make good on this promise, to resource us, to care for us, to guide us, and to show us how to do that for ourselves and for each other.
This Advent, I’m staking everything on the belief that another world is possible. I believe—I have to believe—that the life Jesus believes in, the way of being that Jesus commits to our memory, is coming. Is close. Is soon. Is possible.
—Allison Connelly-Vetter (she/her), New Ways Ministry, December 19, 2022