Christmas season is the most exciting time of the year for me. I have some valid reasons to feel that way, you see, I am a missionary. "So what's the big deal about that?" You may ask.
Japan is not a Christian nation and yet, even now, in October, they have already begun to prepare for the Christmas season.
Now you may wonder just how a Shinto/Buddhist culture prepares for a Christian holiday-well, are you wondering?
Well before the Christmas season, in fact, up to 6 months before Christmas, the Japanese are very busy making plans. As October rolls around you start to see signs of it beginning to look a little bit like Christmas. The stores start selling all kinds of Christmas items such as decorations and Christmas cards.
Wait a minute,now, I know what you are thinking! It's all for commercial reasons and to make a profit. Well, I cannot rule that out. However, during this time a beautiful transformation takes place in Japan, and it is not only the transformation of items into money either.
The transformations I am talking about are the ones, that mean so much to the Christian minority here.
The Christmas lights go up all over the streets, department store windows, in front of train stations on huge trees, and even houses! Some of the most beautifully decorated houses that I have ever seen were in Japan! It is not all just Santa Claus either, but there are also many stunning religious decorations too, believe it or not!
The department stores, supermarkets and malls start playing Christmas music from Bing Crosby, and Elvis to Jingle Bell Rock, including many traditional and popular Christmas Carols, instrumentals and choruses.
You can walk into a department store and listen to all of your favorite Christmas carols while you shop; and it isn't just for the Americans either, as you hardly see any around, except in Tokyo.
I have been noticing that each year it gets better and better. I have even seen some houses that keep their Christmas decorations up all year round! Amazing , isn't it? The Japanese may not even realize it , but they are celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ by playing all of those Christmas carols and putting up all of those glorious beautiful decorations!
So, apart from the Japanese businessmen who are going to make a pretty penny off of it, the Gospel is preached.
There is pretty ,much total religious freedom in Japan when it comes to Christmas! Christmas season is the best time to be a witness in some way for Jesus Christ in Japan.
Christians are trying in some way to share the joy of Christmas with the Japanese who have not yet experienced it in a personal way, by knowing the Savior. This is truly my favorite and most exciting time of the year, and I am so happy to be in Japan at this time.
The most important transformations that really take place are in the hearts of the Japanese people who, through the Christmas season, come to know the Lord Jesus Christ.
Early Japanese Christians suffered a lot of persecution under the rule of some of the Shoguns, and many were even crucified at Nagasaki in the 1600's.
Well, a lot has changed since then, and Christianity in Japan has grown by leaps and bounds.
To think that there are many Christians , even, who do not even recognize Christmas as the birthday of Jesus. It saddened me when I first learned that some Christians are against Christmas and refuse to celebrate it because they think it is a pagan holiday. What could be farther from the truth?
I am very thankful to God that we even have the freedom in this world to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is the one time of the year when the whole world is forced to recognize the birth of Jesus, whether they celebrate it or not. Whether Jesus was born on December 25th or not.
It seems to me as though the Japanese people, though traditionally Shinto and Buddhist, have just as much fun celebrating Christmas as Christians do.
The Christmas Eve candle light services are usually packed out with even many non-Christian Japanese.
Let us pray that many more of them can find the peace and joy that there is by knowing the Savior, Jesus, the whole reason for the season.
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