Friday, December 12, 2014

Advent: Trying not to be so busy.

Today’s coffee: Christmas Blend

We’ve finally achieved 根雪 (neyuki, meaning snow that doesn’t melt) here in Ishikari. It was late this year; we were wondering if we would get a green Christmas. This year will be my fifth Christmas in Hokkaido; I’ve begun to think that Christmas without snow is weird. Next year will be weird, I guess.

So far we’ve had three Christmas events at church: women’s group Christmas cooking class and lunch, middle and high school fondue party, and children’s party with cookie decorating. Three concerts, three potlucks, three worship services, and three or more house parties to go. Three Christmas boxes to send. Exciting, but busy.

Here's a few pictures of our "Christmas" so far.

Women's Christmas lunch. Keith gave a talk (which was actually about Thanksgiving) and carved the turkey.
I just ate. First time to eat turkey with chopsticks.
Not actually a Christmas event, but we had a movie night for the youth group, which also featured making bread (we watched Shiawase no Pan--The Bread of Happiness) and decorating the Christmas tree.
Admiring their creations. The bread on the orange mat is actually shaped into the Japanese symbol for onsen (hot springs bath)!
Youth group Christmas fondue party. "Silent Night" accompanied by Ko-kun on guitar, Ke-kun on cajon, and A-chan on piano.
The meal was 3 courses, but most popular fondue was chocolate, of course. We ate it with meringues and seasonal fruit.
The children's party featured Christmas story told by a ventriloquist with a puppet!
Keith will be preaching from Isaiah 40 tomorrow: a message about preparing the way for the Lord, and specifically, preparing our hearts to receive him. Keith and I both preach from our hearts; each message is first for our own good, and then we share with others what we have learned. Ironically, Keith’s message tomorrow will be a rather sharp criticism of busyness, since the temptation to fill all our time with various activities (and not listen to God’s voice) is something we both struggle with, especially in the weeks before Christmas. Keith and his Japanese teacher, still hard at work on the sermon at 8:00 last night, joked that neither of them were taking to heart the content of the message.

Feeling convicted of not spending enough time resting and reflecting, here I am at Tokumitsu, despite the house party later today, the concert tomorrow, and the cake I have to bake for tomorrow’s potluck. The weather is beautiful; cold and partly sunny, snowing a bit. I stopped to chat with a neighbor on the short walk to Tokumitsu, and then I admired a flock of fat, noisy sparrows perched in one of carefully manicured trees in his yard. Somehow I felt better, having done that.

Every morning and again before bed, I am reading and reflecting on one of the traditional Advent passages, using a devotional book written by fellow students and professors from our seminary. Before dinner, we light the candles of our advent wreath and sing a verse of “Oh Come, Oh Come, Immanuel.” It seems that we stay longer at the table when the advent wreath is there. It was at times like these that Keith and I talked through various points he wanted to put in his sermon. It’s times like these that are helping me remember why I’m here in Japan—and helping me keep my priorities straight.

I feel like a broken record, repeatedly bemoaning the fact that I have a “busy heart,” when what I need is a quiet heart that depends on God, even when circumstances beyond my control keep me busy. But sometimes the circumstances aren’t beyond my control. Sometimes I need to make a conscious choice to stop and listen.

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