“I have to teach at the University on Christmas Eve,” Chris announced. I was less than thrilled to hear this news. I told him he had to find a way out of it. I mean you can’t work on Christmas!
Alas, Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan. Sure, some Japanese people have heard of Santa Clause, the malls might have a Christmas tree, and a few businesses will have lights. Still, there aren’t feasts, and piles of gifts and traveling to see relatives. December twenty-fifth is just another day in Japan.
But it wasn’t just another day to me! Nor was December twenty-forth. I had visions of our traditional night at home, eating beef brisket sandwiches, opening presents, and having friends over to the house. You know, doing all the usual stuff. Chris, however, saw an opportunity. “Lets take our family Christmas celebration to my English class,” he said. Because I really wanted to at least be together as a family on Christmas, I reluctantly agreed.
Chris’ class was a TOFEL English class at the big (secular) university. The students needed to work on their listening skills. So we just added a Christmas theme to their lessons. I even brought some Christmas snacks and decorations. We had discussions about holiday traditions. We listen to “Oh Come All Yeah Faithful”. We read How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
At the end of the class we had one final story for the students to listen too. It was the Christmas story from the book of Luke. Chris read the text straight from the Bible. It was the first time that ANY of the students had ever heard the story. NONE of the students had ever heard the story of the birth of Christ before! And Chris and I felt honored to be the ones to share it with them.
As I sat in class listening to Chris read about the birth of Christ, the one who came to seek and save the lost, I thought, “This is why I am in Japan. This is why I will spend my Christmas away from my extended family. This is the reason that I give up the familiar and the comfortable to live in a place where December 25 isn’t even a holiday.” Christmas isn’t really about all of those things anyway. Christmas should be a time of sharing our joy and hope that is found in Jesus with the world. So while my Christmas Eve broke with tradition, I feel privileged to have spent it introducing a little bit of Jesus to some of the many who have never heard about him.