Dr. Sachi Nakamura（JCFN Board Member, Translator of Christian Books, Spiritual Director）
This year, Advent starts on December 2nd. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before December 25th, and lasts until December 24th. According to the church calendar, Advent marks the beginning of the new year.
As you probably already know, Advent is a time of awaiting for the birth of the Messiah.
To us, Advent is a time to celebrate the birth of our Messiah this earth with gratitude, as well as a time to remember God’s further promise for us. That promise is for Jesus’ second coming, when he will completely redeem all creation, and this world will come to the full knowledge of the Lord. We are eagerly waiting for Jesus’s second coming in order for the Kingdom of God to be completed. All of creation joins us in waiting for that day.
When Jesus first came to earth, he inaugurated the Kingdom of God and taught people the way to live in that kingdom. As God’s people and followers of Jesus, we seek to live as Jesus taught us to on this earth. But in doing so, we realize that there is a tension that exists in the Kingdom of God between what has already been fulfilled and what is not yet fulfilled. Advent is a time that reminds us of this tension that we live in.
What kind of tension are you feeling in your life at this moment? What are you waiting for? How is God personally inviting you to enter into this Advent season? Ironically, December can be the busiest season of the year for Christians having one event after another to attend. In order to not be engulfed by total busyness, take some time for reflection. During this Advent, what is God asking of you? What is He offering to you? What is He inviting you into? May you be mindful of God’s invitation during this 4-week period of Advent.
Although it is in English, Biola University offerings a wonderful online Advent devotion incorporating music and art every year. This year, it will be updated daily starting on December 1st until January 7th. If you are interested, please see the link below.
It is a great encouragement for JCFN to be able to see how returnees walk after returning to Japan, and in particular, see how they answer God’s calling with their strength.
The following is a testimony from a returnee family planting churches in Toyama.
“Planting Churches in Rural Cities is Super Fun!” Nozomu Kawakami
Trinity Church Toyama pastor
I got married in March 2015 and started a church plant in Toyama prefecture in April. In spring 2019, we will be having our 4th anniversary.
Currently, in our church there are people from Nigeria, Kenya, Canada, the USA, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, England, Barbados, Australia, Indonesia, and of course Japan.
Every Sunday service in Toyama, we get a taste of “that glorious day.”
Back in 2008, when I was studying abroad in Canada, I had met pastors who were planting churches in Canada, Seattle, Portland, and in the general northwest. I was struck by their zeal and was given the desire to plant churches. The 10 years since then passed in an instant. I’ve learned many things, and am still learning many more. To be blunt, it’s been failure after failure for me. However, every time, God spoke His Word to me and helped me stand back up.
It was halfway through my third year of church planting, and I was listening for God’s plan in Toyama.
I lived a student’s life in Kyoto, Canada, and Nagoya after leaving my home in Hokkaido.
Strangely enough, all the churches I’ve served in everywhere were English and Japanese bilingual churches. So I learned all the good and difficult points of doing church services in two languages. In bilingual services, translation is absolutely essential and the sermon takes twice as long. And for Japanese worship songs, Romaji subtitles, Japanese and English lyrics have to be prepared on Powerpoint.
I had strongly desired to hold simple church services meant for Japanese people once I started the church plant.
And I wanted to share the gospel with all the people in Toyama prefecture.
But my personal wishes were a bit different from what God planned. After about 6 months, God sent English-speaking students and teachers from the USA, Canada, Australia, England, and the Philippines. This was because there were no English church services at all in Toyama at the time. They were searching for a place to worship.
Because my wife and I had lived abroad, we were able to speak everyday English. And they all became very good friends. But we still continued holding Japanese-only services for a few more months. However, even if they didn’t understand Japanese, these young teachers continued coming to church.
Then one day when I was praying, God Himself gave me a chance to give up something I’ve holding onto and not letting go inside of me.
“This church doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to You” I prayed.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain. Psalm 127:1-2
My wife was given the same thought. She took upon herself the service of interpreting so that everybody coming to church can worship from their hearts. And so, our bilingual services started in 2016. Once again, even being in Toyama, I witnessed how God watches over everybody that seeks Him.
It’s because we ourselves had been foreigners in churches abroad that we understood what they were going through.
Later, many Japanese people came to church through them. There are even seekers participating in Bible studies right now. We also started English ministries and English Bible studies.
Currently in Toyama prefecture, you can count all the foreign missionaries serving there on your fingers, but I know for sure that God has sent many people already. Japan is a country where the gospel hasn’t been preached yet. And Hokuriku region is one of the harder places yet for evangelizing. But the Lord has a great plan for Hokuriku region.
Let us be a church that exhorts the people here with the gospel, let us be a church that evangelizes.