And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.
Matthew 2:6 (ESV)
Identity is an important issue amongst our Indigenous people and in our Christian identity as well. In our American culture, we most often identify ourselves by giving our name and then our occupation. My name is David Sternbeck, and I am a pastor and missionary-at-large for Lutheran Indian Ministries. Indigenous people, however, place their identity in where they come from as being more important than what they do.
That’s not to say Native Americans don’t value an individual’s contribution to their community—they do. In fact, many name-giving ceremonies center around the contributions that were made or will be made. But, when I introduce myself as an Indigenous person I give my name, and then tell you who my parents are, and then my grandparents, and then the place we come from.
With this in mind, it is an easy bridge from an Indigenous identity to a Christian aspect of identity. It is a way of relating to the biblical narrative from an Indigenous perspective and creates a connection between Natives and their place in the Gospel.
Jesus would come from Bethlehem, the house of bread, and the tribe of Judah. His mother would be Mary and His Father Yahweh in heaven. His name would denote His contribution to His people. Jesus, for He will save His people through the forgiveness of their sins.
As we await the second advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, let us re- member that it is always more important to remember our identity is where we have come from, not what we have done.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the living imperishable seed of your Word that has given birth, hope, and our identity in and from your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.