I have always liked the month of January! The promise of the start of a new year is always exciting for me, and I am sure this year many are ready for the start of 2023. I also enjoy the cold weather. I love breathing in the fresh crisp winter morning air. It is refreshing to me, and I also enjoy walking in the snow.
My birthday also falls in the month of January. It is on January 16th to be exact, and this was particularly a good day to have a birthday especially when I was growing up. The reason why it was a good day was because it always fell around Martin Luther King Jr. Day. King’s birthday is on January 15th, but the holiday is always observed on the 3rd Monday of the month. So, for young Ethan, this meant that I always had a day off around my birthday. Sometimes, this even meant that I did not have school on my birthday. It was a sweet deal.
However, this “sweet deal” distracted me from the real reason why we recognize and celebrate MLK Jr. Day. As I got older, I realized that MLK Jr. Day was way more important than my birthday. It was not just a free day off from school.
MLK Jr. Day serves many purposes. Its first purpose is to recognize and honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The second purpose is that it focuses on the issue of civil rights. Then lastly, it calls people into public service. January now has a different meaning to me. It is not just about my birthday. January is now a reminder of a radical love and our call into to it.
The civil rights movement was about recognizing all people as human beings. It was about showing love to all people. It was about recognizing those who are oppressed and the those who live on the margins. Our society today still struggles to do this. Our world and our country are still so polarized, but we must act. We as Christians are called to participate in this radical love. We are called to be present.
In January, Christians around the world celebrate Epiphany. Epiphany is a church festival celebrated every January 6th that commemorates the coming of the Magi to Bethlehem. On their way, King Herod stops them and asks them to “bring him word” of the Child for he was secretly frightened. Jesus, the Christ child, is revealed to the magi. The magi, who are pagans and people of color, having been warned in a dream do not go back to Herod, but rather return to their country by another route. Their actions are acts of civil disobedience and political activism. They chose to go against King Herod and instead side with the Holy Family. Thus, in many ways, January is a reminder for us that we are called into this love. We are called to go against oppressive powers and into activism. We are called to be present with all people.
How can we as people of God be more like the magi and live into the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.?
Peace and Blessings, Pastor Ethan Doan