In the opening days of 2024, Japanese shrines and temples will have many visitors praying for earthly blessings in the coming year. At Shichigahama, where we live in northeast Japan, many get up early, stand on the new seawall (constructed since the 2011 tsunami), and stamp their cold feet while waiting for the sun to rise over the ocean on January 1.
There are many superstitions attached to New Year to get good luck and avoid accidents, sickness, bad relationships, etc. As the conventional Japanese wisdom goes, on New Year’s Day, you should:
- Remember your first dream!
- Watch the sunrise!
- Do not use kitchen knives!
- Do not clean your house!
- One I like is “Don’t argue!” (until 3 Jan).
Behind these is a longing for a fresh start, that the mistakes of the old year with its bad relationships and bad luck will be swept away, and the New Year be better, happier, and richer. Perhaps if you start well and avoid certain practices, then the whole of 2024 will turn out well.
Paul addressed such superstitions in his letter to the Galatians: “..we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world” (4:3, ESV).
He also says that God sent his Son to redeem us from this slavery, to forgive us our sins and make us his children with full rights as sons:
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (vv4-5).
Sons receive the promises of the Holy Spirit and of being heirs: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (vv6-7).
Pray for missionaries and pastors as we teach this good news and persuade all who hear us. Pray that Japanese believers will not return to their old superstitions like the Galatians, but will be bold and clear witnesses of the glorious Saviour. He alone promises not just earthly blessings, but that we will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father for eternity (Matthew 13:43).
By Rod, an OMF Missionary