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"The Waiting" by Rev. Joelle Henneman

"The Waiting" was preached for Pacific School of Religion on December 13, 2023. It is a modern, dramatic retelling of the Christmas story from the perspective of Joseph, cast as “Jo”–a transgender woman. Jo is sharing an update on Mary through a Facebook live video.

Hey Facebook family, this is Jo. You all have been blowing my phone up so I wanted to give you all an update on Mary. 

As you can see, we are still here at the emergency room. I know, we have been here for over 24 hours now. Yes, she is still in labor and we are still in the waiting room. It’s crazy that they haven’t admitted her yet but they said they don’t have a place for us in the hospital.

So we wait.

And we wait.

And we wait.

We have watched entire shifts of doctors and nurses go home and come back again.

You would think that I would be used to waiting by now.

As a person who often depends on the help of others, so much of my life is waiting.

I wait at the social security office.

I wait in line with all of the other carpenters and day laborers trying to get work. No one ever seems to be in a hurry to hire a female carpenter.

I wait at the rescue mission to get something to eat.

I wait to simply be able to use a bathroom. Do you know how much time and energy I spend every day just trying to find a place that will let a homeless trans girl use a bathroom? Let alone to get to use the right bathroom.

So much of my life is waiting.

But this is different.

I feel so helpless.

I get that there is no room, but that is my wife in there who is in labor.

I can’t help but wonder if we had insurance if they would’ve found a place for us by now.

I hold Mary’s hand, I breathe with her, I get her a Sprite… she loves Sprite… but I feel so helpless.

I can remember at church last week the pastor talking about waiting. As if waiting is some kind of spiritual gift, some kind of virtue. She said waiting was an opportunity to feel God’s presence.

Maybe waiting is something unique for those rich people in church wearing their wealth uniforms. But, as someone who spends so much of her life waiting, it doesn’t feel like a blessing to me.

It feels lonely.

The pastor said when we wait on God we find that God is with us.

I remember the psalm, I waited patiently for the Lord, I cried and God heard my cry.

But here I sit.


And where is God now?

A few months ago I did meet an angel.

At first I thought maybe it was just a crazy dream that was the result of some bad gummies, but Mary saw an angel too.

I really love Mary.

I don’t know what she sees in an old queer like me, but I accept it simply as a gift of grace.

Mary is younger than me, prettier than me, and wow you should hear her sing. She has this new song she calls the Magnificat. People are going to be singing that song for a long time.

A lot of my family rejected me.

When I told them I was transgender they threw the book at me. The book of Deuteronomy.

Saying a man can’t dress like this. I told them, that’s fine because I am not a man anyway.

But they said I was too much for them.

When you look like me and you live in a small town its horrible the things some people say.

But Mary took me in. Her mom, Anna, wasn’t excited about it. I think they were afraid of what would happen between us. What would happen to them if I soiled their daughter? I said to her, “Mom, with the hormones and the hormone blockers I am on, I wont be getting anyone pregnant.”

We laughed about it…and then Mary turned up pregnant anyway!

I kept telling them it wasn’t my fault. I said, I am not even capable of doing that. But no one believed me.

Even though people blamed me, there were people who wanted to kill Mary.

Out came the book of Deuteronomy again, they wanted to stone my Mary. They called her evil.

Mary does not have an evil bone in her body.

Those church people. The ones who hold signs saying God hates fags. The one’s who love to throw the Bible in our face to condemn people like me and my chosen family, but ignore what it says about welcoming the stranger, they are the evil ones.

I was just going to let the whole thing go away.

I figured if I was quiet and waited long enough they would find someone else to target.

When I decided to do this I slept well. It was the best night of sleep I had in a long time.

Then an angel showed up in the middle of my dream and said:

‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 

Wow, that was a lot to take in.

Even in my dream it was overwhelming.

I didn’t say anything.

I didn’t even agree to this.

The angel didn’t give me any choice. Next thing I knew they were gone.

I couldn’t tell if it was real.

But Mary told me about her visit from an angel. Mary said to the angel, let it be with me according to your word. But even then, I don’t know think a young girl can really give consent to “the power of the Most High”.

But there we were.

We didn’t ask for this, we didn’t have any choice in the matter, but what were going to do now?

We went to the courthouse and got married. It was small. Elizabeth and Zechariah were our witnesses. I am sure Mary had visions as a girl of a wedding party that was so big they would run out of wine. We didn’t have anything like that. But we have each other.

And now we wait.

God promised us that they would be with us.

Somehow, this baby Mary is going to have will embody that. The angel said that people will call him Emmanuel, which means God with us.

No one from my family was named Emmanuel. That isn’t a family name.

Mary said the angel told her that this child we be great, the Son of God.

The son of God born to an old trans woman and a teenage virgin?

I always thought God had a sense of humor, but this is all a bit ridiculous.

I just got a text from Mary. Her contractions are getting closer together and more intense and they still don’t have a room for her. Not even a bed in the emergency room.

At this rate we may end up having the baby in the back seat of my broken down Crown Victoria.

You would think that Jehovah-Jireh would provide a place for their child to be born.

We’ve been waiting patiently for months, the time is now. Where is the angel now? Where is the Most High now?

I thought God would be a better planner than this.

I’ve been waiting patiently for the Lord, when will the Lord hear my cry?

I don’t know what all of this means or how it is all going to work out, but it is time to go back in and see how God’s grace is going to provide this time.

Catch you all later. Bye.


Rev. Joelle Henneman (she/her) is the Senior Pastor at Church for All People in Columbus, OH. You can follow her writing at TransPreacher and on Instagram @TransPreacher.


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