LIHUE — Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the most popular days for churchgoers each year, with the exception of Easter.
“It’s the biggest birthday party in the history of mankind,” said Rev. Matt Higa of New Hope Kauai.
Churches around Kauai are going the distance and then some to provide the community with opportunities to attend a service.
Special music, sermons and decorations are ready. Greeters will have extra big smiles. Some churches have even moved their services to bigger venues like War Memorial Convention Hall and the Kauai Marriott Resort in Lihue.
“It’s the one time a year when the whole world can come together in a spirit of love and good will,” said Rev. Phyllis Meighen at Lihue United Church. “It’s really a privilege and a joy that the Christian faith can take the lead on this, but it’s really a universal promise of peace and goodwill for all.”
Meighen is passionate about bringing the community together, no matter how different people may be or whatever troubles people have. She sees Christmas and the holiday season as a chance for everyone to celebrate in unison.
“Christmas gives us hope for a world that’s torn apart,” Meighen said. “The Christmas Eve service is, of course, very joyful. It’s a combination of love, joy, peace and hope; all of those four things. It’s about coming together.”
Pastor Jed Young at Kapaa Missionary Church wants people to come together as well and get back to what Christmas was founded upon, not what is being shown on television screens.
It’s about the Nativity story as recounted in the Bible.
“It’s about Jesus Christ being born and showing us what God is like and his love for us,” Young said. “And when you’re looking at Christmas, you’re also looking at Easter. That’s another big time when people come to church. Today, there’s so much commercialization. But Christmas is really about celebration.”
Nativity survey says
According to a 2014 Pew Survey of over 1,500 U.S. adults, 73 percent said they believed Jesus was born to a virgin, and 74 percent say they believed Jesus’s birth was announced to the shepherds by an angel. Seventy-eight percent of women say they believe in the virgin birth, 65 percent of the respondents said they believe all elements of the Christmas story are factually true.
A survey done by YouGov in 2014 found more than around 50 per cent of people don’t believe the following aspects of the Christmas story:
w An angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus (51 percent don’t believe it, 20 percent don’t know and 28 percent do believe it)
w Wise men were guided by a star and bought Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh (44 percent don’t believe it, 19 percent don’t know and 37 percent do believe it)
w The newborn baby Jesus was laid in a manger (47 percent don’t believe it, 24 percent don’t know and 29 percent believe it)
Who goes to church on Christmas?
Millions of people will go to church on Christmas day. In a 2015 poll of 1,000 Americans, LifeWay Research found six out of 10 Americans typically attend church at Christmastime.
But among those who don’t attend church at Christmastime, a majority (57 percent) say they would likely attend if someone invited them.
Americans living in the South (66 percent) and Midwest (64 percent) are more likely to attend church at Christmastime than those in the Northeast (57 percent) and West (53 percent). And throughout the U.S., more women than men are likely to attend Christmas church services (66 percent vs. 56 percent).
Younger Americans are less likely to participate in a service or Christmas mass than their elders. Fifty-three percent of those 18 to 24 say they attend church at Christmas, compared to 68 percent of those 65 and older and 67 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds.
Hope for Christmas
Coming together is an important aspect of going to church and for some churchgoers, getting in the spirit of the holiday season and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ with family is the highlight of the year.
“That’s what Christmas is about, our savior,” said Nina Magoun, a weekly churchgoer at Lihue United Church. “That would be the primary reason for everybody, for adults and children. Although the children don’t really realize it, it’s a good family activity.”
Magoun, who also helps teach Sunday school, hopes that people come out in strong numbers this weekend for service to celebrate the holiday but to also enjoy the ambience of being in church.
“Christmas music on the radio isn’t as succulent,” she said. “This is sacred music and scripture and that’s what Christmas is about. What you hear, what you learn, is totally worthwhile and uplifting.”
Along with Christmas carols, hula and the story of Christmas in his Christmas Eve service, Young also reaches out to hotels to give people on vacation a chance to see a candlelight service on their holidays.
Higa and New Hope Kauai are putting on a service at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, but not on Christmas Day because he said that he “just didn’t have it in his heart” to ask his volunteers to help set up stuff at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning.
“I wanted them all to enjoy that day and we’ll just celebrate Christmas Eve,” he said.
Crossroads Christian Fellowship has a 7 p.m. service tonight with a mini-drama, a Christmas-themed Star Wars production called “Star Trip,” which changes Luke Skywalker’s last name to Luke Skywatcher and has Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda serve as the wise men, taking you through the Christmas story in a Star Wars setting.
“Our goal is to bring back Christmas, to let everyone know why Christmas is so important,” said Malie de la Cruz, office administrator at Crossroads. “We want to share that news with people, especially now since things are happening in the world and people are trying to find some sort of peace. Our hope is to bring people hope. People can still find hope.”