Jeff Johnston

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A3 Advent Devotional Entry • Jeff Johnston

"The angel said, "Don’t be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."
—Luke 2:10–12 (MSG)

Becoming a missionary in a foreign land has surely deepened my appreciation of the incarnation of Christ. 

But wait a minute . . . This was the arrival sign of the world's Savior—a baby wrapped in a blanket lying in an animal's food trough? Messiah and Master arriving as an infant?

I moved into this new world of Japan with some knowledge of how to survive here. I was not a helpless baby, but I sure felt like one. I struggled with almost everything. I struggled to learn how to speak a new language. No matter how I tried, I didn't understand what people were saying. I could not communicate much at all. I needed to acquire a taste for a different style of food. I grieved to exchange my self-sufficiency in America for reliance upon my new hosts. My neighbor had to teach me how to turn on my rice cooker!

How was I supposed to be a communicator of the Gospel message from a position of weakness? The connection between weakness and grace had not crossed my mind. But gradually, I was able to say more and understand more Japanese. Over time, I became more familiar with my new world—a world that I was in, but not of.

Jesus was born as a helpless infant. He left his mighty throne to be born as a tiny baby in a foreign world. He couldn't feed himself or change his diapers. He couldn't speak Hebrew or Aramaic immediately. He didn't know Jewish customs until he could experience them. But as he grew in stature, and as he studied, he learned language and culture, scripture and worldview. This learning was necessary for him to be able to teach others who his Father was. He started teaching at age 12! 

The reality that Jesus would lay aside his glory for this assignment is amazing to me. I had precious little to give up to be a missionary. Christ left everything. Think about all that he gave up to wrap his spirit in flesh—and a baby at that! And in exchange for what? It often makes me shake my head in wonderment to consider these lofty things. 

Despite the tremendous differences, becoming a missionary helps me to better understand a little of what Jesus experienced through his incarnation.

  • Christ's incarnation challenges me to model my life after his missionary life. Moving away from home, laying aside my rights, and serving from a position of weakness can reveal God's power. And any sacrifice I may make is but a small offering considering . . .
  • Christ's incarnation humbles me to realize the Father's love for us to send his One and Only Son to a new world to save that world.
  • Christ's incarnation compels me to show my Father to my Japanese friends.

Being a dad myself helps me better understand our Father's love. But as a missionary—sharing with my Messiah and Master in a tiny, but powerful way—an incarnation of sorts shakes me to my core. 

Jeffrey S. Johnston    

johnston jeffrey 2020 7R301988 squareJeff Johnston has served with A3 since 1987 when he first moved to Tokyo as a short-term missionary. Now in Los Angeles, Jeff serves as VP for Advancement & Communications, helping tell the story through writing, video, web, and print. He has also contributed to establishing the A3 leader development program in North India and Bangladesh. Jeff and his wife Nozomi have two adult children both seeking to reflect the Father's love to their world.

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A3 Advent devotional coverMore Information

  • This is one of many entries in A3's Advent Devotional. If you want to download a free PDF of the entire devotional to read along with us, click here...
  • Cover image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay