December 5, 2015

Isaiah 40:9 You who bring good tidings to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”

This whole chapter is so glorious, it’s hard to know where to begin. It figures prominently in the libretto for The Messiah, and the closing verses about how God strengthens those who depend on Him have been lifesavers, sometimes quite literally, for countless saints. This particular verse is especially appropriate for the Christmas season, because it is what the celebration of Christmas is supposed to be all about: proclaiming the Messiah. I’ve recently had some conversations about the commercialization/degradation of Christmas, but no amount of that can destroy the basic message: God has come to earth as a human baby, to take our sins on Himself and redeem all who will believe in Him. Here in Japan very few people really know that message, so there’s all the more reason to proclaim it boldly. The problem comes for those who are most familiar with it, because it becomes “same old same old,” and that saps the joy out of it. When we know the Christmas songs better than we know our own address and can quote the relevant passages in Matthew and Luke verbatim, it can be hard to get excited about telling the story yet again. However, as the hymn expresses it, “I love to tell the story, for some have never heard.” When we spend all our time in the cocoon of church, that’s hard to grasp. At Christmas, of all times, it should be easier, and certainly delightful, to expand our field and talk with those who have a distorted idea, or even no idea, what all the hullabaloo is about.

This next week I will have two school class Christmas parties in which I will tell the Christmas story. I’ve done this for over 30 years, and to my knowledge I’ve never had a commitment to Christ as a direct result, but that doesn’t mean the seed isn’t being sown. Then on the following Sunday afternoon we will have a joint Carol Sing of the six churches in Omura (4 Protestant, 2 Catholic) in a public shopping arcade, hoping to influence holiday shoppers. It’s possible some of those shoppers do actually attend some of the Christmas services for which we hand out fliers, but I’ve not personally gotten much feedback. And then there are the special services themselves, and the people who come once a year but don’t seem to grasp that Jesus is Lord 365/24/7. From a human perspective it can be very draining, but I must remember this Scripture and never stop proclaiming, “Here is your God.” If I don’t, who will?

Father, thank You for this reminder, and for how You are indeed renewing my strength. It’s clear I have none of my own! Help me walk in grateful obedience moment by moment, whether the task at hand seems secular or religious, so that all of Your purposes for me may indeed be fulfilled, on Your schedule and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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