Merry Christmas! This month, we wanted to send along this short "koan" (zen saying) for you… It reminded me of John 1:14—"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory—the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…"
The water is clear to the very bottom;
The pearl gleams naturally,
without need of cutting and polishing.
Well, as for most of you, Christmas is a busy season here in Japan. December is often called "shiwasu"—the "time when teachers, pastors and monks race around" trying to get things done! Gift giving is not an important tradition here, but people like to have a Christmas meal (often of roast chicken) and a Christmas cake. In truth, Christmas is often celebrated as a "romantic" holiday in Japan—a time to go out on a date. The "racing around" in December is not due to Christmas so much as it's due to preparations for "o-shogatsu" (Jan. 1-3)—the New Year's celebration, which is the most important holiday in the Japanese calendar.
The picture I've attached this time was taken at our December Worship Gathering here at the Kanto Gakuin Mission House. Thanks for your prayers, everyone! Attendance has steadily grown since we started in October, and the fellowship has been edifying. This gathering is usually a pot-luck type event with an emergent church-style worship service at the end.
At Kanto Gakuin University, we've tried to bring in some different, younger musicians for Christmas worship services at each of the college's campuses this year, and they've been really good so far. Just yesterday, about 300 students showed up for a wonderful service led by local Christian guitarist, Tatsue Shioya. Around 1,500 students out of the 15,000 enrolled at Kanto Gakuin are expected to attend special Christmas services on campus this year, so please pray that those leading worship will be able to share the good news faithfully and well.
Besides these major things, we're busy getting ready for Christmas at church and home. I'm preaching at two churches this month, and Adam and Sarah are in the Christmas pageant at Kanto Gakuin Church—Adam will be Joseph and Sarah gets to be an angel. They're working hard on their lines in Japanese! The kids are anxious to see some snow this year, and there's no chance we'll see it in Yokohama, so we'll probably head to the mountains for a few days during "o-shogatsu." All the stores will be closed here in the big city, anyway, and all our Japanese friends will be with their own families!
We certainly want to pass on how encouraged we've been to have received so many cards and gifts from churches lately. It's truly heart-warming to know that so many folks are thinking of us and praying for us, and that you continue to value the ministry we're trying to do on your behalf here with our partners in Japan.
God's richest blessings to you this Christmas season!
Dwight & Kari
Adam (11), Sarah (7) & Isaiah (3)