I was riding my bicycle just outside Tokyo when, to my surprise, I heard Christmas music coming from outdoor speakers along the busy road. Christmas songs are somewhat common in Japan, but not usually in November! “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” rang out in the city street. I’m sure you know the song.
Christmas in December really is a wonderful time as we remember Jesus: God in the flesh paying for our sin and redeeming us to himself. Sadly though, 99% of Japanese people don’t have this hope.
Their hope instead is in January! The new year marks what is called “ Hatsumōde” (初詣), where millions of people visit shrines and temples. In Japan this is “the most prayerful time of the year.” Prayers are offered to say thanks for last year and pray for good fortune for the coming new year.
All of these millions of prayers would be wonderful except that they are not lifted to the God who created each prayerful individual who is looking for someone to hear and answer. These prayers are not prayed to the One who is the true source of blessings and the only One who can give a bright future and an everlasting hope.
For us who know life in Christ, the new year brings hope for what God will do through his people. As God’s people, we need to be lifting up the Japanese people in prayer to our God who hears. Our hope this new year is that God would lead many Japanese to know the depth, height, width, and breadth of just how wonderful he is.
By Tim, an OMF Missionary