Joanne and the Virgin Mary

by Joanna Moon

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reflecting on my friendship with Joanne, a tall, beautiful, transgendered, aboriginal woman who very recently took her own life. Joanne had a pretty wild sense of humour, and we shared many laughs over the year and a half that I knew her.

As I have been thinking about her death, I’ve also been thinking about her life, and the moments that we shared. Like the first time we met, and realized that we were exactly the same height, and had very similar names. From then on we were pals.

And another time, when she showed up at Sanctuary and announced that she thought she was pregnant … followed, after a pause, by “It must be the Lord’s!” I had to agree that if she, a trans woman was pregnant, it must indeed be the Lord’s!

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve also been re-reading a book called The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. Today I read about the conditions of Mary’s pregnancy and Jesus’ birth, and how it seems that “God arranged the most humiliating circumstances possible for his entrance” (Yancey, pg 32). God chose for his Son to be born to a poor young virgin, in a time when the typical consequence of becoming pregnant out of wedlock was to be stoned to death (Yancey, pg 31). Jesus was born in a barn, became a refugee, and grew up in a small town where children of “questionable paternity” were likely not treated kindly.

This got me thinking… If Jesus had been born today, to whom would he have been born? The circumstances of Jesus’ birth were surrounded (and still are) with incredulity and scandal. Really, a virgin birth? Really, a poor, marginalized subject of an oppressive empire, carrying the Son of God? Suddenly, Joanne’s joking claim to be pregnant with the Lord’s child took on a new significance. No one would have believed that she was pregnant; much less that she was carrying the Saviour of the world.

From the circumstances of his conception, birth and upbringing, to his inaugural speech in Luke 4, to the Sermon on the Mount, to his chosen friendships, to the many parables about the Kingdom, Jesus made it abundantly clear that the Kingdom belongs to people who are poor, marginalized, mourning, oppressed, stereotyped and shunned. Joanne was all of these things, along with beautiful, hilarious, vivacious and caring. I know that I may be getting myself onto thin theological ice with some, but that’s just too bad. It seems to me that if Jesus had been born today, he would certainly have been born to someone much like Joanne.

As we enter into Advent, may we remember that our Saviour came, and still comes, to us in the form of the small, the humble, the rejected, the stigmatized. And may we long for the day when the last are made first, all tears are wiped away, and no one ever feels such despair that they take their own life. O come, o come Emmanuel!!

[Joanna Moon is a member of both the Sanctuary and Wine Before Breakfast communities in Toronto. She presently serves in ministry at the Parkdale Neighbourhood Church.]

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian and the CRC Campus Minister at the University of Toronto. He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is entitled Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination.

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