One of my favorite activities each week on Thursday mornings is a simple bible study that we do before the Nozomi Project starts. Six of us or so gather around our dining room table and study a passage of scripture and seek to apply it to our own lives.
This month we have been looking at different passages of the Christmas story. On Thursday, we were reading the story of the angels who came to the shepherds, and through their proclamation the shepherds were among (if not) the first to go and meet the baby Christ child. One of the many beautiful things about the Christmas story – and most of the stories of the Bible – is that God loves to use ordinary people. We were thinking about the shepherds – they were probably ruffian types; working all night; smelling like outdoors/animals. But these were the first visitors to meet the King!
After talking through the story a bit, each of us shared observations. Our most recent member, A-san, shared this:
“S. was like the first angel who introduced me to the Nozomi Project when I told her I was quitting my other job at (a local sandwich shop). She led me here to the Nozomi Project. I was always afraid to go deep with people, so I avoided relationships. But by becoming a Nozomi member, I have been able to grow deeper in friendships. The group of angels in the shepherd story are like the Be One staff members and our manager Yuko. Day by day they share truth with me. And now I’m here, studying the Bible each week. I’m changing from reading this.”
Then T-san shared: “I never believed in miracles. But then I met a member of Be One, and that was the first miracle I experienced. Now I’m reading the bible and learning so much about life. I’m so glad that I met God. God entered our everyday world through Jesus, and He’s come into my normal life too. I am so thankful to experience miracles.”
My friend C-san.: “I’m like the shepherd, and God keeps bringing angels into my life who share about the Message. When our friend Nobuko came last month and shared, her message was just like that of the angels, and I thought, I want to try out this Christian faith. It’s been a month and I still believe. When I used to hear sharing from the Bible, I would listen but forget it in a few days. Now I hear the stories and they stay in my heart.”
Those of us with the Hope of Jesus this season have an amazing privilege of being like the angels. We had some laughs last week as the Japanese typically imagine angels as the little cherubim baby-face images with halos on their heads. But the biblical angels are usually depicted as those who know the Glory and Sweetness of God and are sent as messengers to share that beauty. This can be us! While being far from perfect and without halos or glowing robes, we have an amazing privilege wherever we are of sharing with the ordinary people surrounding our every-day lives the realities of the Jesus -story. We can bring them to Him.
But there is also something else that happens as we share the truths of God with people around us. God continues to use the beautiful people in my everyday world here to lead me to Jesus. They become the angels, and I am a recipient of their wonder and awe as they experience grace and living hope for the first time. The stories I have heard since childhood become new and fresh again. Like the angels did for the shepherds, they lead me before the Christ child. And as we experience him together, all social structures are flattened and we together are transformed.
Christmas is a time of miracles.