Friday, November 27, 2009

Come Emmanuel

The Christmas season is upon us though Thanksgiving is barely past in the States. Yet, with no Thanksgiving to celebrate, Christmas lights have been up since early November in Japan. Rob and I are doing well although I was not able to escape the cold and flu season without catching cold myself. Rob on the other hand has an immune system that is iron strong.

Well this one is for all you sports fans out there. After years of defeat our high school soccer team finally beat its rival Ozu this past week to win the prefectural title. Our principal was so excited he announced in our morning staff meeting that we had won the national title. Apparently there were no dry eyes on the Luther side of the stadium. Unfortunately, I was unable to see the game in Kumamoto, because I was in Fukuoka for Rob's first Sumo match.

Filled with the exciting news of Luther's first win against Ozu we climbed the steps of the arena to find our seats and watch some huge men wearing only a well wrapped piece of cloth around their loins push each other out of a ring made of sand. The first few matches were of lower level wrestlers, but in the evening the better stronger wrestlers competed. This was my second time watching Sumo and let me tell you it was even better the second time around. The best matches of course are the ones with the yokozuna--the champion or strongest Sumo. The current yokozuna is Asashyoryu, a Mongolian. His strongest competitor is Hakuho, also Mongolian. My favorite wrestler (or at least for the moment) is a huge Bulgarian (I think) named Baluto. Well, I was in for a treat because the final bout was between Asashyoryu and Baluto. Baluto looked to be twice the size of Asashyoryu. They pushed and held each other for a good several minutes (it seemed) until finally Asashyoryu grabbed hold of Baluto's belt and lifted him to the ground out of the ring. It was a glorious round. I don't think I calmed down for at least an hour after.

I'll end with a short message prepared for Oe church. May you experience the nearness of God in this Advent season. Please pray for all of us here that we be in good health and for safe travels for all who travel to be with family both in the missionary community here in Japan and for our students who will travel back home to be with their families over the new year holiday and also for our teachers and students who will travel to Tokyo to cheer on our soccer team as they compete in the national tournament.
The Lord be with you all

Isaiah 45: 22 "Turn to me and be saved all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other."
This week Luther Gakuin had its annual tree lighting and candle light vigil. The lights around the campus are beautiful and singing songs really led me into the Christmas spirit. It was really a holy moment standing in the cold among students and friends as the choir sang "O Come Emmanuel." Really that's what Christmas is about: all the world waiting and crying out for a savior.
As we approach Advent and begin our time of reflection, may our hearts be filled with cries of "Come Emmanuel." I pray that we will all experience God with us as we come near the celebration of Jesus' birth. May our every prayer be "Come Lord Jesus, come."
Let us pray: Holy God, in your love for us you put on human flesh. As we approach Christmas let our minds and hearts be on the miracle of that moment and not on the things we must buy. So that we will experience closeness with you this Christmas. Come Emmanuel.

Isaiah 45:”