On a recent dinner out with two of my teachers from language school, we got onto the topic of Christmas and New Year traditions. In my home country, December is filled with preparations for Christmas, but here in Japan the preparations are for New Year.
My teachers told me that December is the busiest month of the year. There are 忘年会 (bōnenkai: end of year parties) to attend, 年賀状 (nengajō: New Year cards) to write, 大掃除 (ōsōji: houses to clean,) and おせち料理 (osechi ryōri: New Year food) to prepare.
On New Year’s Day itself, when I passed by my local temple, I was surprised by the length of the queue of people waiting to approach the temple to pray. I wondered what people might expect from the prayers they offer.
As Christians, we are also engaged in preparations, expectations, and prayer.
During Advent I reflected on the expectation and preparation of the coming Saviour in the past. Now we continue with an eager anticipation of our Saviour’s return. As he teaches us in Matthew 24:44, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
When I pray, I trust that God will hear and answer in his way and in his timing. I think back over the past year and how God has faithfully kept me safe and well. He has provided for me in so many ways, and helped me to settle into this new country. All these are in answer to prayer.
But I am also living as the answer to others’ prayers. For years, faithful Christians have prayed for God to send workers to Japan. OMF has welcomed many new workers in the last 12 months, and more are due to come this year!
Generations of Christians before me prayed and sowed seeds. Now I am living in the time of harvest. I join in, praying my own prayers for the people of Japan, and hopefully sowing more gospel seeds in this new year.
What if, in 2024, we really expected God to grow the seeds we sow and to answer our prayers of faith? In this New Year, let us pray!
By Rachel, an OMF Missionary