In Matthew 1 we see the lineage of Jesus back through his adopted father, Joseph. Jesus was born with the human DNA of his mother but not of his adopted father and yet, the genealogy of today’s gospel, traces Jesus’ ancestry back through Joseph. This is because, in biblical times, a child’s lineage was determined by his father. For example the apostle Peter bar Jonah means son of Jonah. Here is another example; you were a member of the tribe of Levite if your father was, even if your mother was from another tribe.
In Hawaiian tradition, family heritage is so significant that the traditional Hawaiian tattoo is a unique series of triangles usually running vertically that denote the ancestral lineage.
In Hawaii, adoption is very sacred. We use the word “hanai” as a very special term for adoption. It is a term of endearment and honor. My wife Cindy helped raise her niece after her mother died. It is with sweet endearment that CeeJay calls Cindy “my Hanai mom.” To be hanai’ed means to be purposefully and specially chosen and, in some ways, to be even more honored than to be born into a family.
My friend Jason Jones was abandoned by his father when he was young, but with utmost love and honor he refers to the man who actually raised him and set him on a path to virtue as his hanai father. My home in Waikiki is built on royal land. Many members who lived there were specially chosen and honored as hanai’ed into the royal family.
Joseph was more than just a step father to Jesus. He was Hanai. In this very sense, at a critical moment, when he was betrothed to Mary but not yet married, when she was found to be with child, Joseph made a choice. Joseph chose to hanai Jesus. To be endeared to and honor Jesus as his son.
But what is unique, is that Jesus first chose to hanai Joseph. The son and his Lord first chose the father to be his hanai and then the father chose the son.
There is a true story of a legendary surfer on the North Shore of O’ahu who had lost his father. One day, as a young boy he was playing in the surf near his home and a man who was there took great delight in the young boy’s love and freedom in the water. They played and frolicked for a long time in the ocean and then the young boy took him to the beach house and introduced him to his mother, and told them to get married and so they did. This man hanai’ed this young boy, and the young boy took his name, but it was the son who initiated the adoption. So it is that Jesus chose Joseph to be his hanai father.
And so it is with you and I. We have been specially chosen to be hanai by Jesus. If we say yes, we receive the Spirit of adoption whereby we can cry out Abba Father. God has chosen you to be his hanai son or daughter. Will you, like Joseph say yes? Will you become hanai to the family of God and become a part of this royal lineage?
In this time of Christmas say yes, and be hanai’ed into the family of God.
Mele Kelikimaka. Merry Christmas.