They came bearing gifts. Small things, because the giving and receiving of gifts in Japan is serious business, and you don't want to inadvertently put a burden of obligation on a friend. The most memorable of these gifts was a CD recording of classical music performed by music boxes. My friend, the giver, is a sales rep for a company that produces high-end music boxes of awesome craftsmanship and jaw-dropping price tags. The ignoble thought flashed through my mind that the CD might be a sales gimmick, and I felt briefly uncomfortable accepting it.
But after my friends left, I read the pamphlet that came with the CD. It claimed all kinds of health benefits, both physical and emotional, from listening to the music box recordings. Then I understood that, whether or not the company's claims are true, the gift showed my friend's honest desire to provide comfort for the hardest months of winter that still loom ahead.
The words on the card are from the prophesy in Isaiah 40:1, 2 which is surely familiar to anyone who has listened to Handel's Messiah or sung the Christmas carol by that title.