Justin Elder, missionary of English education

Bible passage: Luke 2: 1-20

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman World. This was the first census that took places while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heave, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

This reading from the Bible used to be the one I hated the most. When I was a child, my brother and sister and I would wake my parents up very early on Christmas morning because we wanted our Christmas presents. However, before my parents would let us have our new toys and clothes, they would sit us down and read us this same reading from the Bible. I hated having to wait for my presents, but my parents wanted to make sure my brother and sister and I knew why we celebrated Christmas. Christmas is not about presents, it’s about Jesus.

Early in my life, I did not like our family’s tradition of reading the Bible before presents on Christmas morning. But as I got older, I came to appreciate it, and then to really enjoy it. It was part of our Christmas tradition and it kept the focus of Christmas on Jesus.

Every culture and group that celebrates Christmas celebrates differently. Some people celebrate on Christmas Eve. Some people go to church. Some people eat turkey. Some people have no food. My family read the Bible, then eats breakfast, and then does absolutely nothing the rest of the day, which is actually quite a strange way of celebrating, but we like it! I think it is really nice to wake up early, take a while to remember Jesus, then have a nice breakfast and relax with my family.

Before I came to Japan, I had never heard of Christmas cake. Last year, when I asked people what they would do for Christmas, they told me “I am going to eat cake.” The first time I heard this, I asked the person “is it your birthday?” I did not know that people eat cake at Christmas in Japan. My friend did not know that Americans did not eat cake at Christmas.

The important thing to remember about Christmas is not how you celebrate, but why you celebrate. Without Jesus, there would be no Christmas. It does not matter if you are a Christian or not, the reason we have Christmas is Jesus. So, wherever you are, and however you celebrate Christmas, please take a moment to remember that the reason that day is special is because of Jesus.

English Chapel Service December 21, 2005
The sermons are meant to be heard by non-native speaking high school students.