Blessings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
MERRY CHRISTMAS! Yes our greetings to all as we celebrate the birth of our wonderful Lord and Savior. December is always the busiest time of the year for us, with so many wonderful activities.
I know many of you will be traveling this Christmas Season and pray that all have wonderful trips and experiences. I think each of you before making your trips will make all the plans necessary. Airplane tickets, hotel rooms, where to stay, how long will it take, food preparations, gift buying, I think every detail will be planned. How about God’s perfect plan? Years and years in advance! ALL THE DETAILS!!! Don’t you wonder why he forgot the hotel room? Was it an oversight? Was He too busy? Was he trusting His wife? (oops that’s my excuse, ha, ha) No, that baby born in a manger was ALL part of God’s perfect plan. Remember that message to the shepherds? Luke 2:8-12 8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
The perfect gift, the newborn baby. All the details taken care of, from the Roman government demanding the census, to the baby being born. All the details carefully planned. Why would God choose the manger for His Son? When I think of a manger I think of a feeding trough. A place where all kinds of animals can eat. When the food is placed in the manger, the stable manager is saying, come and get it! Look what Jesus said: John 6:53-58 53Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Where else should we go to eat than the feeding trough? What a perfect place to find the gift that came down from heaven. What does Jesus call it? Verse 58: 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Please go to that manger each day and eat your full! He truly is our Spiritual Food that DID come down from HEAVEN!
We ended November with our annual community Christmas party and pageant at one of the local hotels. We had about 150 people in attendance with a pastor and his wife from Karuizawa providing the message and special music. Before the message, local church members read different passages from the Old Testament leading up to the need and reason for the coming of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
On December 17th Kim and I were both busy at two different events. Kim headed up into the mountains to a small elementary school where she aided in their Christmas program. She is now teaching there every week and really enjoying herself. The school has just over 200 students so she is getting to know the kids and really making a difference in their school environment.
Also that day I had his end of year Christmas Party for about 30 members at the Asahi Community Center. The day started at 11 with John leading a cooking class for the members. A wonderful meal filled with 4 different vegetable dishes and the main dish a white fish smothered with a cheesy seafood sauce. Everyone loved the food as we ate lunch together then moved upstairs for the reading of the Christmas Story. Each member has to read a certain portion of the story and then we sing 11 different Christmas songs during the story to help them understand the meaning. I played the piano and for the conclusion sang Thou Didst leave Thy Throne in Japanese as a special present for them.
On the 19th, Mako (lady baptized at our church 3 years ago)and I had a Christmas party for our students and their families. Over 110 people attended. The party started with members from our church performing the Christmas Play. We are blessed to have access to wonderful costumes that another church loans us. After the play, each of the classes did special performances to showcase their talents. Santa made an appearance at the end and was the wonderful ending to the day.
On the 22nd, we had our Christmas program for our Tuesday Bible Study group. We again read the Christmas Story with the singing. It was so beautiful. We have 4 members that we think are really getting close to accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Tonight, the 23rd we sang Christmas Carols downtown at the main train station. We had over 85 people show up. 3 non-Christian families from our Tuesday Bible study joined us, so we ask for your prayers to touch the hearts of all those that we witness to each day. But especially during this holiday season that our Lord’s Spirit can truly open up the hearts, minds and eyes of many this season.
The 24th our church will be having their Christmas Eve concert and candlelight service. We will be having a 1 hour concert followed by the reading of the Christmas Story, singing and the message by Pastor Kitamura. We usually have around 60 people attend, and hope this year will be no different.
As we’ve told you before, Christmas isn’t celebrated here. Now, every (well 90% or more) family will have Christmas Cake, fried chicken and a single present on Christmas Eve, but the 25th is work as normal. All of the stores are decorated since the end of October and Christmas songs are heard every where. There is no trouble saying Merry Christmas, especially in the schools where it is encouraged and the teachers want us to teach them Christmas songs. So different than in the states!
*Heather’s father-in-love is still undergoing treatment for stage 4 lymphoma so we ask for prayers for him and the family.
We trust God to equip us for each individual challenge and opportunity that He presents. Your prayers and support are vital to our being here. Please pray with and for us that we always strive to walk before God, wherever that may be, and be used as instruments of His love in all we do. Should God ask any of you to partner with us in our outreach for Him, please send any love offerings to: Bethlehem United Methodist Church, for Baranski John Alan Mission Fund, c/o Becky Wack, 1003 Rowan Cove, New Albany, Ms. 38652.
We hold you each in our hearts and prayers with thanksgiving.
In His love & walking before Him, the Baranski Bunch