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January 1, 2023

A Peculiar Identity

Pastor KJ Kim

Matthew 2: 13-23

In today’s passage, we see Joseph’s three dreams (v. 13; 19; 22). Are the three dreams that Joseph has after the magi depart good or bad?

The newborn and Christ Child just received precious gifts from the magi who were exotic visitors. Certainly, that was bright and shining moment, but now that moment turned to be a nightmare,
facing the massacre of the innocents. By the first dream, the promised baby needs to escape to Egypt, under Roman control, was outside of Herod’s jurisdiction, and the child would be safe there when Herod ordered the killing of all boys under the age of two born in Bethlehem.

The next two dreams in the passage continue this pattern between hope and nightmare. The second dream was a dream of relief—Herod was dead which means, the immediate threat removed. Well, no sooner did Mary and Joseph arrived than the old nightmare returned. Yes, the holy family was a refugee family just like Jesus had nowhere to lay his head from the day he was born to the death on the cross.

Now, we have finished the birth season and make our way to Epiphany. This season is the moment when the birth of Christ child becomes public. Yes, being born is a quite public deal. I also still remember the day when my son, Joel, was born on Sunday, December 21st, 2014.

What the public—mother, father, grandparents, friends, cousins and so on—immediately notice is that from the first instant of birth to today, the new child already has identifiable and peculiar characteristics. They may observe something about “mother’s nose,” “father’s eyes,” “grandmother’s mouth,” “grandfather’s forehead,” and so on. Yes, I know that Joel has the two birthmarks that I still have on my body, telling me that Joel is my son, not to be confused with any other people which is an inescapable trait of evidence.

Here we are in 2023, the new year, fresh from Christmas. The world seems to remain the same now as it was since the night Jesus was born; since the holy family became a refugee. The world still does not welcome Jesus and does not welcome refugee very much.

Like Joseph and the holy family as a refugee escaped from the massacre of the innocent, countless refugees are still fleeing from violence and war, and needing protection. And we all know how the media usually paints a negative image of refugees and refugee crisis, and immigrants as well. Well, those situations seemingly be obvious in the real world where today’s-King-Herod is still in power.

So my question for each of us is whether we have and hold a God-given and peculiar identity with an oddness or not. Whether we have God-given birth marks or not since we celebrate the birth of Immanuel, God with us, in public? Christmas story is not a onetime event. This is a time for the church and for the people of God to go public with its peculiar identity. Then, baby Jesus and the holy family would never again be refugee Jesus and refugee family.

Thanks be to God.

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