9 Jan 2015 by Jason Law CM –
Just a few days ago, on the 5th/6th of January, the recent Christmas season came to an end. As a matter of fact, the last day of Christmas is an important day of commemoration for many traditional churches throughout the world. It marks an event known as the Epiphany, in which the churches remember the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ.
I won’t go too much into that, beyond recommending readers to find out more if they are interested, but the crux is that Christmas has a meaning that go beyond 25th December every year, and in fact, its themes last throughout all year and into eternity.
The reason behind Christmas is more significant than the celebration itself. It is timeless, universal in that it crosses all cultural and national boundaries, and yet at the same time, it is personal in that it means something special, in its own way, to every person. Last Christmas, the Japanese Church in Malaysia Agape (JCM Agape Network) celebrated the season in an intimate yet meaningful way.
When we talk about celebrating something that is timeless, universal, and yet personal, what better way than to do so through something that shares identical qualities? Few other things can equal these in the same way as music.
Music is a central component in the expression of every culture. It is timeless in that it has existed since the dawn of human history. Its diversity and variability is an apparent mark of music’s ability to speak personally to every person. If we look deeper into music, we also find it having an ability to help Christians utter their spiritual and emotional relationship to God.
The pastor of JCM Agape Network, Pastor Mayumi Yamazaki, has a gift for music and their Christmas celebration was multi-faceted. The celebration opened through a wonderful harmonica performance by the Harmonica Touch. Three different types of harmonica were used, including soprano, alto, and the seldom-seen bass harmonica, and the flexibility of the instruments were showcased through the three main areas of music; classical, popular, and sacred.
Throughout the night, there were also other musical presentations including the saxophone and a violin-cello duet. Three solo songs were presented: ‘What Child Is This?’ by Brother John Chong; ‘Joseph’s Song’ written by Michael Card to express the emotions of Joseph as Jesus’s earthly father, presented by Brother Ron Koh; and ‘You Are The Reason’ by Brother Caleb Ee.
One of the highlight of the celebration was JCM Agape Network’s well-known Hallelujah Singers’ presentation of Christmas carols in English and Japanese. A Gospel group known as the Gospel 11 rendered other carols in lively Gospel form.
Another highlight was a hula dance presentation by Madam Tomoko One and her team. The hula is a complex art form, and in its original nature, the movements were designed to signify aspects of nature, such as the swaying of a tree in the breeze or a wave in the ocean, or a feeling or emotion, such as fondness or yearning. Madam Tomoko and her team adapted the dance form to celebrate the visible signature of God’s handiwork in nature and the emotional-spiritual aspects of the Christian life.
A testimony was shared by Dr Noel Francis Thomas of God’s divine intervention and how He had providentially guided and arranged Dr Noel’s steps since decades ago, until today where he is an important member of the chemistry faculty in Universiti Malaya.
Pastor Mayumi herself presented solo renditions; ‘Mary Did You Know?’ and a Japanese translation of the Hebrew song, ‘The Hope’. In her message, Pastor Mayumi shared about the miraculous nature of Christmas as a momentous event that only happened once in our human history. She shared that many people attempt to disprove the Virginal Birth of Jesus through the use of natural laws, but by focusing on the commonplace laws of nature, they are missing the point. The power of Christmas is in its nature as a miraculous event.
Three timeless aspects to the meaning of Christmas were shared; Hope, Unity/Solidarity, and Reunion. The fact that God loves us so much, that He made the ultimate sacrifice by coming down to Earth, and living among us as a human, brings hope to the lonely and hurting of the world. Reflecting on this, Pastor Mayumi also gave thanks that God is working among the Japanese.
She shared that for a long time, the Japanese were known as a hard ground for the Gospel message. Today, however, many Japanese are returning to God through a medium that is ever-present in their culture. For many years, Japanese children were taught songs without fully understanding the meaning in them. It is by the Spiritual understanding of the lyrics in them that many Japanese have found God communicating. Pastor Mayumi gave thanks that God did not just select a specific group of people for salvation, but that He had made that salvation available to every person across the world. God is calling His people to return to Him.
During the celebration at JCM Agape Network, there were believers from many nations. This reflects the fulfillment of the promise proclaimed during Christmas about God’s peace and the brother- and sisterhood of Christ’s followers. Pastor Mayumi imparted that this is something that Christians must cherish and continue to work towards. The celebration ended with the whole church intentionally coming together as one body in Christ.
Christmas may be celebrated once per year but its meaning/significance lasts year round. We are used to looking backwards at Christmas as something in the past, but what God set into motion on that day 2000 years ago points to the future. God is bringing the work He started 2000 years ago to a triumphant finish.
NOTE: All pictures kindly contributed by JCM Agape Network Church.
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