Photo credit: Mona C

She did it! (yes, with a little help)
but follow the cord:
this child is of Her line

yes
this is great yet
She will do greater things
built from years of wise rage oh
nothing is healed still
something has changed

so scream with delight
dance and sing 
today She is the endless mountain
where ground and heaven meet oh blessed
are You for making Me.*


Christmas is the celebration of a birth. But a Christmas Jesus is a clean baby wrapped up in cloths, not a sticky one emerging from Mary’s body. Why is that? Is it our discomfort with our bodies, and in particular, women and non-binary people’s bodies? The strangeness of the incarnation, this mixing of divine and human, that we don’t want to recognize? I’m not entirely sure. But I know that this Christmas, I want to see birth. I want to see a woman’s and non-binary person’s body intermingled with the divine. I want to see a record of the pain that comes before the joy.
*
My mom is a white American and my father is a 3rd generation Korean American. My cousin, who is also mixed race, asked me how I think about the scriptural passages that prohibit mixing. I told her I would think about it. That was years ago and I’m still thinking about it. Meanwhile, this year, my cousin gave birth. She generously shared the photo above for me to use for this image.
*
Christianity has been a part of my family identity for generations. In 1917, when Japan was colonizing Korea, my great-grandma immigrated to Hawaii so she could freely practice her Christianity. As my relationship with Christianity has grown more complex over the years, my reasons for being Christian have become less about specific doctrine and more about connecting with this part of my family history.
*
I don’t know how my great-grandma’s family became Christian. But, as I begin to grapple with colonialism and my faith, I feel compelled to examine what was before Christianity’s import as a colonial religion to Korea. This led me to look into the culture of han and hanpuri in Korean shamanism. I feel tentative talking about this because I am still at the beginning of learning about it. But what I have read influenced how I thought about Christmas, so I want to share a little here.
*
Han
1. Indignation and a desire for justice. Not limited to Koreans, but a universal feeling, a foundational collective spirit. Pain and sorrow from oppression that demands action for justice, generating energy for social change. 2. (literal definition) The limits of a mountain
*
Hanpuri kut
A ritual in Korean shamanism to resolve han, allowing people to express their pain in a way that defies social convention. The tone is a mix of emotions, serious and joyful, with ecstatic dance. This public space allows for experiences outside of the norm to happen; it can be a form of protest.**
*
Could I think about Mary’s experience of oppression as han, and then, Christmas and the birth of Jesus as hanpuri kut? This way of understanding brings together the pain and joy, oppression and hope all at once.That’s a reality that holds true today.

And it makes me excited for Christmas.
*

Reflection

What experiences or spaces give you a sense of relief/liberation, even if just for a moment?
What does it feel like to look at this image of Mary & Jesus? 

* Reframing an ancient Jewish prayer “blessed art thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, that thou hast not made me a woman”
**Young-ja Lee, Yvonne. Religion, Culture of Han and Hanpuri, and Korean Minjung Women: An Interdisciplinary Post-colonial Religio-cultural Analysis of the Indigenous Encounter with the Colonial Religions in Korea, A Dissertation, presented to the Faculties of the Ilif School of Theology, the University of Denver. 1999, Denver, Colorado

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  • Symphony (she/her) manages communications and PR for a nonprofit at the intersection of public health, urban planning, and the built environment. She lives in Brooklyn, NY but her heart is really for Manhattan’s Chinatown. Her current side projects are cheers to the mess and the Thin Heart Brigade (coming soon!). She is a plant mom and has recently picked up Chinese calligraphy.