I love Christmas Carols. These classic songs, old and new, are played all over the world at this time of year, announcing the joy and wonder of the season. As a special Christmas present for you, here is a medley of five of our favorite Christmas carols sung by me (Nate Reutter) and Jennifer Huber in Japanese and English. This is an original arrangement, orchestration and piano performance that we hope you enjoy. Merry Christmas!
The days leading up to Christmas (Christmas Advent) are some of the most special days of the year. There are many traditions for us that make this time special: Christmas trees and decorations, Christmas cookies and holiday carols, year-end newsletters and a never-ending onslaught of year-end deals and sales. Welcome to the busy end of the year!
But for some the end of the year is especially difficult. It only reminds them of loved ones who are no longer here, or of broken relationships and families torn apart. For many who find themselves alone, Christmas is not a time of celebration, but of difficult retrospect. An endless strain of “what if’s” that fill the mind.
But the only difference between a great story and a bad story is where the story ends. The best stories have heartbreak, discord, love and loss. There’s betrayal and unmet expectations. Ironically, it’s the exact same ingredients of a bad story. Except bad stories end there — in the despair and heartbreak. In the bleak-midwinter hopelessness. It’s like watching a movie that ends before it gets good. Movies that do that flop. Everyone is cheering for a happy ending. And that’s exactly what Christmas is. A happy ending. A happy ending and a glorious new beginning!
This is the season we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ whose name means “God saves.” Through Jesus, God saves us from our bad ending of despair and heartbreak, of loneliness and brokenness. Another name of Jesus is Emmanuel — “God with us.” God not only saves, but he entered into our mess, into our bad, lonely story and came to be with us in it, heal us of it and lead us out of it. That’s salvation.
You can rejoice this Christmas, even if you are alone and heartbroken, even if you made a mess of life or have fallen victim to it, because with the coming of Jesus into your life, your bad story won’t end there. It is being worked into a masterpiece story. All it takes is to call out to him — “Jesus, come save me! Enter into my life! I will follow you!” — and watch as the miracle of Christmas turns your life and story around, just as it has in the lives of millions and billions since the very first Christmas nearly 2,000 years ago.
When you’re an American living abroad, sometimes you have to celebrate your own holidays in a special way, and that’s what we did for the classic American holiday of Thanksgiving. If we were in America, we would pack up the family for a road trip to some relatives house to enjoy a holiday meal of turkey and potatoes together, but living in Japan things are quite different. First of all, the girls go to school on Thanksgiving! But we didn’t let that stop us from celebrating together and making our own holiday memories.
After a great meal, we enjoyed a Gospel Choir concert at Paz Coffee Shop and then went to see over a million lights at the illuminations at Pleasure Forest near Lake Sagamiko. Now that’s a good way to celebrate! Here’s what our holidays look like in Japan.
Fall is a beautiful time of year in Japan. In America, the late November holiday of Thanksgiving stops most people from decorating for the holidays too early. But no such holiday holds back the Japanese from decorating for the holidays. As soon as Halloween passes, it’s decorating time. For me, growing up in Illinois, December meant bare trees and freezing temperatures. It’s a stark contrast to Tokyo where the trees still hold their leaves late into December while holiday decorations are lit up.
Making our Japanese fall even more special this year was a night-time viewing of the fall foliage at the Japanese gardens in Showa Kinen park. This expansive park is awesome, offering all kinds of actives for the family. For a short time each fall they strategically place lights to highlight the beautiful fall colors and invite the public to come in and see it. It is truly breath-taking, as our latest video shows.
We are grateful for being able to live here in Japan, and we personally enjoy mixing the best of American, Brazilian and Japanese cultures together. Each culture has so much to offer, and we still have so much to learn, but we love bridging the gap!
Of all the seasons, fall is perhaps my favorite. The weather gets cooler. The pumpkin lattes come out. The leaves change colors and time marches towards the end of the year. It also happens to be prime birthday season for the Reutter family and we celebrate three birthdays within a week (mine and the twins)!
This year we celebrated with a BBQ that our good friend Yoshi hosted. Yoshi makes some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had. He’s a great friend to have! My birthday coincided with a Japanese holiday this year, which meant that many of our friends from our family group were off of work and able to get together. In Tokyo, where people are so busy, spending time together is extremely special. It’s these connections to other people that help you thrive as a person. When people are an active part of a healthy family, whether a physical family or a church family, everybody wins. This is an important part of a truly blessed life, wherever you live.
So without further ado, here is the latest installment of Life in Japan. Enjoy!