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A3 Advent Devotional Entry • Emi Hibino Miller

What do you think of when you see Christmas lights? Growing up in a pastor’s family, Christmas time was always very busy with my dad preaching, and my mom directing the Christmas program. Our family also hosted a large Christmas Day gathering for church members who did not have family in the US or in the area.

In preparation for our numerous guests and the season, my siblings and I would dust off Christmas decoration boxes with my mom to make our home more festive, but my favorite moment was seeing the lights turn on to light up the Christmas tree. When it was time for bed, I’d stare at the flickering lights of the tree through the slats of the stairway while the rest of the house was dark and quiet. I was entranced. Oh, how I loved these serene moments amid the busy season.

As I moved from childhood to adolescence and then college, the wonderment of Christmas decorating seemed to fade. I preferred to go out with my friends, than get “stuck” with the task or felt it was a bother. My mom continued the tradition, sometimes on her own, and sometimes with help.

Two years ago, my mom called my husband and me over to their place with a simple request. My parents had moved into a small pastor’s retirement community, and she wanted help putting up Christmas decorations, but specifically needed help with the Christmas lights.

That year was particularly different. My mom was in a much weakened state from chemotherapy treatment for stomach cancer and suffered from some very severe side effects which mimicked Parkinson’s disease. My mom’s shaky hands could not stabilize to do any fine motor function, and this frustrated her normally independent self.

My husband diligently hung the Christmas lights and the Star of David patiently to my mom’s liking, and I draped some choice ornaments onto a small tree. When the Christmas light switch turned on, her vacuous look dissipated and it reflected the glow from the lights.

I drove home that night in tears.

The simple tradition of Christmas lights took on new meaning for me that year. We were not decorating for the large Christmas party my parents hosted in the past, and the frenzy of the season was minimal in their retirement years. It was not a burden or chore. The lights and decoration symbolized a celebration of the coming of our Lord in the midst of deep hardship for her, and the rest of the family. She wanted to celebrate Jesus.

After they (Magi) had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was . . . On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.
—Matthew 2:9–11a 

The lights and the bright Star of David flickering in my parents’ house assured me of God’s promise and presence for me personally in the stillness of the night. Just like my childhood, it’s in those quiet moments when we pause, and in the Christmas story, where the Magi come, can we block out the din to commune and be with Jesus.

Emi Hibino Miller
A3.Missional Partner
Tokyo, Japan


hibino miller emi 2023 600pxEmi Hibino Miller has served with A3 since 2000. During her time in the US Office, Emi was a mobilization specialist and Director of Human Resource Development. She and her husband Sterling moved to Tokyo in 2013 as Missional Partners, coming alongside Kokubunji Baptist Church (KBC, https://kbcnet.wixsite.com/kbcnet) to do relationship ministry in the community and build up Japanese Christians. With A3, Emi facilitates missionary support through Member Care. Emi and Sterling have two daughters, Geneva and Elise.

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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 photo by Tessa Rampersad on Unsplash

   

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