This year, Oblates from South Korea and Japan will gather in Kochi City, Japan, to celebrate Christmas. Although we belong to one delegation, we function in two different cultures, with two different languages and our missionary approaches are quite different. For example, there are more Christians in South Korea than in many other Asian countries such as China and Japan, so Christmas is celebrated more widely. Christians make up about 25-30% of the population. The other 70% of people in South Korea are Buddhist or don’t have a religion. On the other hand, Christianity in Japan is among the lowest in Asia. Around 0.5 percent of the population claims to be Christian, while Buddhism and Shintoism are the major religions.
Coming together at Christmas as one community has deep meaning for us spiritually and is also a time to re-energize. Representing 7 different nationalities and coming from different parts of Japan and South Korea, our men will arrive in Kochi on the evening of the 26th. Some will stay at the Parish, others in surrounding business hotels.
On the morning of the 27th, coffee and pastries will be served at the house. Then around 9 o’clock, preparations will begin for the day’s activities. First, the kitchen will be available to those who want to prepare special dishes for the evening meal. The main course will focus on Sushi, Sashimi, Pizza, and homemade Chicken Potato Salad. In addition, we also added a novelty this year by asking the men from different countries to prepare a small dish which would be eaten in their respective countries on Christmas Day. Should be interesting!
However, the amazing thing about Christmas is that it is so much more than it seems. In brief, Christmas is Life. It guides our decisions, influences behavior, shapes goals, offers a sense of direction, and creates meaning. Consequently, before the evening meal, we will celebrate the true meaning of Christmas – Life Itself. For us, the real Christmas story is the story of God’s becoming a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. Why would He do such a thing? Because He loves us! Why is Christmas necessary for us? Because we need to be saved! Why does God love us so much? Because He is love itself (1 John 4:8). Out of gratitude for what God has done for us, we recall His birth by coming together and worshipping Him, being especially conscious of the poor and less fortunate.
We will do this by emphasizing the true meaning of Christmas, in short, by concelebrating Mass (Christ-Mass) with Bishop Suwa from the Diocese of Takamatsu who will attend the Christmas Party. Fr. Bradley, our Superior, will preach a homily on Life as it evolved in Asia this past year and the role it plays in our lives as Oblates. The Christmas music during the Mass will be directed by Bro. Yagi.
In closing, our life in Asia is centered on the Mass (Christ-Mass), on Jesus who is called “Emmanuel”, which means “God is With Us”. As missionaries we receive our strength and encouragement from the God (Who is With Us) both in our spiritual life and in our missionary life both in Japan and Korea.
The evening to this beautiful day will end with a social hour, a time set aside for sharing and enjoying the moment. The following day, the 28th, most of the guys will head back to their missions and begin preparing for another year as Oblate Missionaries in Japan and Korea.
Jerry Novotny, OMI