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stories from our missional partners

At first, I did not understand what Janice was trying to say. I was a young single missionary. It was going to be my first Christmas in Japan, and I was wondering how I was going to manage. Christmas had always been a special time with family celebrating the birth of Christ. How was I going to manage being alone, far away from those that I most wanted to spend that time with?

This concern prompted me to ask Janice how her previous two Christmases in Japan had been. Her response puzzled me, so I asked her to explain.

"You know, it’s like Jesus. He left his home and came to a place where no one understood who he was. They looked at him and made assumptions. He was profoundly misunderstood. And yet he loved them, and sacrificed his own life for them."

These words reverberated in my heart. Yes, Jesus did come like a wonderful present, a tiny package containing so much more than the initial glance reveals. But, it also marked the profound sacrifice of incarnation. Jesus left the perfect culture of heaven to enter our human culture that could barely (if at all) comprehend his mission, motivation, and identity. What they chose to see, was not who he really was. Even his own disciples would only "get it" after the fact. 

This brief conversation set the framework for my Advent season that year (and many since). Yes, I did have moments when loneliness and the culture gap seemed overwhelming. I did wish that my family and friends were around the corner rather than half a world away.

But, I discovered the power of whispering,

“My model is Jesus.”

Any small perceived sacrifice in my life was as insignificant as a dust bunny next to the ultimate sacrifice of God-made-incarnate. After all, I was in Japan to love people and tell them about Jesus. 

My first Christmas in Japan turned out to be a fantastic experience. 

Thank you, Janice. 

Do I enjoy Christmas in Japan? You bet! It helps me to understand Jesus better...

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
— Philippians 2:5-8

Jeffery SonnenbergJeffery Sonnenberg
A3.Missional Partner



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