4th Sunday of Advent

Hebrews 10:5-10 (Contemporary English Version)

When Christ came into the world, he said to God,
“Sacrifices and offerings are not what you want,

but you have given me my body.
No, you are not pleased with animal sacrifices and offerings for sin.”
Then Christ said, “And so, my God, I have come to do what you want, as the Scriptures say.”
The Law teaches that offerings and sacrifices must be made because of sin. But why did Christ mention these things and say that God did not want them? 
Well, it was to do away with offerings and sacrifices and to replace them. That is what he meant by saying to God, “I have come to do what you want.” 
10 So we are made holy because Christ obeyed God and offered himself once for all.

Luke 1:46-55 (Contemporary English Version)

Mary’s Song of Praise

46 Mary said: With all my heart I praise the Lord,
47 and I am glad because of God my Savior.
48 He cares for me, his humble servant. From now on, all people will say God has blessed me.
49 God All-Powerful has done great things for me, and his name is holy.
50 He always shows mercy to everyone who worships him.
51 The Lord has used his powerful arm to scatter those who are proud.
52 He drags strong rulers from their thrones and puts humble people in places of power.
53 God gives the hungry good things to eat, and sends the rich away with nothing.
54 He helps his servant Israel and is always merciful to his people.
55 The Lord made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his family forever!

“You Have Given Me My Body.” – Hebrew 10:5b

God was coming as a body, the child of refugees, hidden, humble, and hungry. Escaping from senseless killing and violence, the refugee couple, Mary and Joseph, fled with nothing but their bodies to bring a new life to the world. On this 4th Sunday of Advent, let us remember how Jesus, the child of refugees, was born, grew, lived, and died for justice and peace for all against the colonial power of the Roman Empire. What does it mean for us that Christ was born through the body of a refugee child? What does the birth of Jesus, the child of refugees, convey to us as we live in a society which constantly dehumanizes immigrants and refugees systematically and structurally?

For six years of community organizing with un/documented immigrant communities, I organized and participated in numerous actions involving heavy intense physical demands. We marched and protested in the rain or snow for five to six hours a day, slept with a sleeping bag in the basement of a church, picketed in front of the white house for days and nights, and occupied senators’ offices with chanting and demanding for hours and hours. Some say we are weak in strategizing. Some say we are ignorant and only know how to hit with the bodies.

We, immigrants and refugees, who were displaced possess nothing but our bodies. With our bodies, we re-create culture and communities and make a way out of no way for the new lives in our new home. We fight back with all we have, facing a life-threatening situation again and about to lose everything similarly in our new home. In the end, the only and last thing that we own to utilize for our struggle is our bodies. Our bodies are the loudest manifesto of the voiceless, the most potent action of the powerless, and the most radical presentation of our divine humanity. 

“Offered My Body for All.”- Hebrew 10:10

On Wednesday, November 3 in Chicago, 29 protesters threw their bodies to shut down part of Ida B. Wells Dr. outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s headquarters. They called Congress to support a pathway to citizenship. They were just a few blocks from Sen. Dick Durbin’s office.   

Glo Choi, an undocumented young leader, was one of them. His family came from South Korea when he was four. He doesn’t have DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) because he was one month less undocumented than others who qualified for DACA. His undocumented-ness was not enough to receive temporary protection. His whole family is undocumented, including his autistic sister. Glo’s constant worry is about his family’s health. Living as the undocumented and uninsured, he used to feel invisible, inessential, and less human, but not anymore.   

“Time and time again, politicians will say how essential we’ve been during the pandemic, how immigrants are a critical aspect of this nation, and yet when push comes to shove, they break, and everything they’ve ever promised us is just thrown away. We’re sick and tired of it. We came here today to let them know that we’re serious about a pathway to citizenship, and we need Democratic leadership to hold the line and to make sure that we get permanent protections and not temporary ones.”[3]

Glo risked arrest to make his voice heard. His voice spoken by his whole body was bold and clear. Glo, who has nothing to protect himself, demanded permanent protections for everyone through Citizenship for All.   

“The members of this group want nothing less than a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented people, regardless of their age, their country of origin, their history with incarceration, or more their economic contributions because we believe. It is a human right.”[4]

It has been 35 years since the undocumented community has fought for a permanent solution to the broken immigration system. “Citizenship for All” came out of the painful experience in January 2018 when the government shut down occurred due to the disagreement around passing the Dream Act, which would allow the legalization of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients. We were in Washington D.C., staying at a Church basement, doing rallies and protests, and meeting as many legislators as possible to share our stories and demand protecting DACA-mented and their families every day for almost four months. Both parties proposed several different bills for the legislative solution to save DACA recipients. The situation of both parties’ negotiations changed every moment. We were holding onto a bit of hope that we might be able to get something this time. After all day of intense action in D.C., we had a long discussion every night about which legislation we would support. As a diverse community of directly impacted undocumented people, their families, and allies, we wanted to have one united voice so that we could be powerful and impactful at the negotiation table.

However, the undocumented leaders and their families had the most heartbreaking and painful conversations every night. The legislators forced us to face the situation and solutions which were most divisive, destructive, and disgusting. They expected us to compete to decide who was the most worth being saved and legalized among ourselves.

After a long, painful, but profound conversation and engagement, we decided not to support any legislation or reply to any legislator. Because we realized that no one and no legislation was the one which we have been waiting for. We decided to hold our hands together and fight for all. By asking these fundamental questions to ourselves: who we are, what we deserve, and what we want, we created the vital space and community which empowers our movement to envision and fight for justice and liberation beyond what this current unjust, racist, broken system can offer.

We created “Citizenship for All” as a vision of our fight. This “Citizenship” does NOT mean a paper of legalization. “Citizenship” means our fundamental human rights for full dignity and equality. With the principle of ultimate solidarity rooted in our mutual connectedness and love, “Citizenship for All” becomes a comprehensive intersectional campaign for all regardless of race, gender, sexual orientations, immigration status, and so on. We lost the fight at that time, but we DID win the power for collective liberation and a vital community of love. We are the ones who we have been waiting for. We fight for justice for all migrants, for abolishing ICE, defunding all government-funded concentration camps, and for citizenship now for All 11 million undocumented immigrants.    

In August 2021, the House and Senate voted to advance the budget resolution that includes funding for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people, essential workers, TPS holders, and farmworkers. Since then, the Senate Parliamentarian, an unelected official, has made two advisory rulings AGAINST, including a pathway to citizenship in the budget.

On October 5, HANA joined our NAKASEC affiliates in D.C. for “Citizenship or BUZZ.” Korean American organizers and undocumented community leaders gave up their hairs to show their commitments to #Citizenship4All and call on VP Harris to disregard the Parliamentarian. In Korea, shaving heads is a traditional act of resistance and a demonstration of utmost dedication. The powerful demonstration was followed by a march and press conference by partners, with the clear message asking, “VP Harris, do your job, ignore the Parliamentarian.”

For immigrants and refugees, our bodies given by God are the only and last offerings and sacrifices to resist the structural evil of dehumanization and illegalization for all who yearn and fight for full divine humanity.    

“We are Made Holy.”- Hebrew 10:10

We wait for the moment of Kairos, the moment of the divine’s breaking into humanity, the moment of Christ being born in the body of the refugee baby. Paul Tillich describes Kairos as “a state of things in the world which makes the appearance of something divine possible. It is a “breaking-in of the infinite to the finite.” We are holy because our bodies are where the divine comes into humanity.   

Mary’s song for praise in Luke 1:51-53 was a prayer of a young refugee woman for her baby. Her prayer was for transformation, revolution, liberation, and salvation. Mary prayed for divine intervention into the world where the proud, strong rulers with the thrones and the rich oppressed the powerless, the humble, and the hungry. Her song was to declare full humanity, cry out justice, and proclaim divine presence with the oppressed for her baby and others. They had to live, struggle and fight back in a world where constantly despised their full humanity and holiness.              

This undocumented young woman’s cry echoed Mary’s voice. After walking 230 miles for 18 days from New York to Washington D.C. to demand Citizenship for All 11 million undocumented, Esther Jeon, undocumented leader cried out to proclaim, “We Are Holy.”     

“18 days and 230 miles later, We Did It! As we marched through rain and shine together, as we held hands in community with each other, I’ve never felt more certain than any other time in my life that everything would be okay. In large because we know organizing works. When we organize, we win! It was our power that won us DACA in 2012, and it will be our power that takes us beyond the steps of the Supreme Court, to fight not just for DACA and TPS but for justice for all migrants, for the abolition of ICE, for the shut-down of the all government-funded concentration camps, and for citizenship now for all 11 million undocumented immigrants. Because I am! Somebody! And I deserve! Full equality! Right here! Right now! We are! Somebody! And we deserve! Full equality! Right here! Right now! Si, Se Puede! 할 수 있다!”[7]  

[1] Picture 1 from Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)’s Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ICIRR/photos/pcb.10160030927416672/10160030918161672.

[2] Picture 2 from Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)’s Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ICIRR/photos/pcb.10160030927416672/10160030918161672 received permission to use for the devotion from Glo Choi.

[3] Glo Choi’s quote from Borderless Magazine, https://borderlessmag.org/2021/11/04/chicagos-immigrants-rally-for-the-right-to-become-citizens-in-their-longtime-home/?fbclid=IwAR0LTPEDOfTd7OE2eVetwsZ–6_tVnj6DAeJQB3ymXjoW_G5J5IRoSdAyeA, Received verbal permission to use for the devotion from Glo Choi.

[4] Glo Choi’s quote from Borderless Magazine, https://borderlessmag.org/2021/11/04/chicagos-immigrants-rally-for-the-right-to-become-citizens-in-their-longtime-home/?fbclid=IwAR0LTPEDOfTd7OE2eVetwsZ–6_tVnj6DAeJQB3ymXjoW_G5J5IRoSdAyeA, Received verbal permission to use for the devotion from Glo Choi.

[5] Picture 3 and explanation from HANA Center Monthly News Letter, https://hanacenter.org/monthly-newsletter/2021/11/1/october-2021-newsletter-launch-mzah9, received verbal permission from HANA Center.

[6]   Picture 4 from NAKASEC’s Facebook page, @nakasec

[7]   This statement is from NAKASEC’s YouTube channel video, https://youtu.be/-nS8o8YizBc. The video clip title is “Home Is Here March Dat 18 – Final Rally in Washington DC.”  

Rev. Dr. Nayoung Ha is a proud single mom, seasoned organizer, fierce public speaker, theologian in action, and ordained minister of PC(USA). She was born and grew up in Busan, South Korea, and came to Chicago in 2003 after finishing her M.Div. at the Hanshin Theological Seminary. She received M.A.T.S. from McCormick and Th.M. & Ph.D. from L.S.T.C. Her organizing work focuses on immigrant and refugee rights, interfaith religious leader organizing, deportation defense, racial equity, language access, and voter rights protection with Korean/Asian American communities. Her significant organizing work with undocumented immigrants and English nonproficient voters contributed on passing IL Trust Act (SB31) – the law made IL Sanctuary State and achieving Korean ballots in Cook County and the City of Chicago. She co-organized Protected By Faith, an ecumenical, interfaith, social justice network of religious leaders and people of faith to protect immigrant and refugee rights. She has been a guest lecturer for the DMin class, Culturally Attentive Leadership for Pastoral Leaders since 2018 to present “Systemic Racism and Human/Civil Rights of People of Color: Things that We Must Know as Ministers of Color in U.S.” to its Korean students. She was a panel speaker for McCormick Days in 2013 presenting her reflection, “The Urgent Need for an Ethic of Resistance in Korea,” which was published in the book, “Here I Am: Faith Stories of Korean American Clergywomen.” She is a recipient of McCormick Alumni Award 2020. She worked with the Chicago Board of Elections as a Coordinator for Korean Outreach to provide Korean translation and promote Vote by Mail for 2020 November Presidential election. Rev. Dr. Nayoung Ha currently works as a chaplain resident at the Alexian Brothers Medical Center, IL.           

Previous Story

Christmas Eve

Next Story

1st Sunday After Christmas