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Celebrating Christmas without Jesus in Japan

On Sunday, 17 December, 2017 there were two Christmas events near the OMF Japan headquarters. The two venues are only about 20 minutes walk apart, but I doubt if they could have been more different.

The two events happened at the same time, so my wife, Janet, and I could only go to one of them.

At the church

We went to the event at New Creation Church*. This church is held in small concert hall which is attached to a popular bakery firm in Japan. The bakery is owned by a Christian; this godly businessman is starting a church for his employees.

The church’s free Christmas concert was packed with people—I imagine both from the company and the local area. About 400 people heard high quality music and a short Bible message based on Luke 2. They also enjoyed refreshments afterwards. The printed concert program included an invitation to the church services and to join a practical Bible study. It was a great event, really well done. It was also gently evangelistic—which is often the right way to do things in Japan. Janet and I prayed earnestly during the message that God would speak to people and bring them back to the church or put them in contact with other Christians.

At the shrine

I knew about the other event because it was advertised on the local community bulletin board. “Christmas Meeting” it said. The notice told me that attendees could play games, make Christmas craft, and eat snacks. “Happy friends”—a performance of juggling and other street acts like magic tricks and balloon craft—would also be present to entertain the crowd. This event was run by a non-profit organisation called “The Walnut Children’s meeting” that works in the area of healthy childrearing. It looked to be a fun event and it was cheap to attend. But, it was held at a Shinto Shrine.

A secular celebration

In Japan, as in many countries, Christmas is becoming separated from Christ and his church. It’s just a fun time and mostly for children. Certainly, there is a big commercial push for Christmas in this country. But it doesn’t help that, in Japanese, the word for Christmas does not appear to have any link to Christ, it is just sounded out—“kurisumasu”. Here, “kurisumasu” is not connected to Christ and so it can be celebrated anywhere, even in a Shinto Shrine.

By Peter—an OMF missionary in Japan

*Not an OMF church

Will you pray for Japan?

  • That God would draw people to his church at to Jesus at this time of year.
  • For wisdom and creativity for Christians and churches in reaching out to their local communities during Advent.
  • Pray that Japanese people will connect the word “kurisumasu” and the season of Christmas with Christ.


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