December 24, 2016


Luke 2:3 And everyone went to his own town to register.

It has been interesting to me that this is something that Japanese understand much more easily than Americans. Japan has had a system of registration for hundreds of years, whereas many Americans, or at least their ancestors, went to America precisely to begin a totally new life, as cut off as possible from the past. In Japan, legal marriage is simply going to the local city office and adding the wife’s name to the husband’s family registry, and divorce is accomplished by X-ing the person’s name from that registry. In addition, each person is formally registered as a resident of the municipality where they live, and address changes must be reported. Criminals have been caught simply because they automatically did this, even though they were fleeing the law. Police go around periodically and check on who is living where, confirming that the registered address information is correct. So, whereas many Americans can’t figure out why Joseph and Mary would have had to travel all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, for Japanese it seems completely natural. We forget that Judea was not “Western,” much less American! Cultural context is very important in reading the Bible, especially some passages in Paul’s letters, even though the fundamental truths are universal.

Having been born of American missionary parents in Japan, all the cross-cultural issues are an accepted part of life. It wasn’t until my own children were studying at Christian Academy in Japan, in the Tokyo area, that I first heard the term, Third Culture Kids (TCK). I identified immediately! I have been a misfit, in a sense, all my life, looking American and so not being accepted as Japanese, but feeling rather like a fish out of water in America. The thing is, I’m not Japanese, having attended American schools all my life and being raised in an American home. (I have come to the conclusion that the Japanese school system is the biggest factor in the “Japanese-ness” of anyone, which is why Japanese children who have attended school for any length of time overseas have such trouble fitting in when they return.) At the same time, I don’t feel American, having lived 50 of my 68 years in Japan. Rather than labor over that, much less be bitter about it, (which many TCKs succumb to) I need to be grateful for the richness of my experience and heritage and make full use of it in communicating the Gospel across the cultural barriers to the Japanese.

Father, I didn’t expect to run into this issue this morning! There was a good bit of xenophobia in the phone call from the landowner of the property next door last night. He couldn’t believe I know the various things involved in property transfer in Japan, and that I’ve already been through them. Help me dot those I’s and cross those T’s properly, and communicate Your grace and love in the process. I pray particularly that Your Gospel would communicate effectively in the Christmas Eve candle light service tonight, that many people would understand that You sent Your Son for the people of every nationality, every ethnicity, and open their hearts to receive Your salvation, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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About jgarrott

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