LIHUE — Vera Bargamento said she’ll be gathering with family for Christmas.
But attending church won’t be part of their celebration.
“I believe church comes from within,” she said.
For Meleane Moala, however, remembering the birth of Jesus is an important part of celebrating the holiday.
“I’ll be attending church at Lihue United on Christmas Eve,” she said.
More Kauai residents than usual will attend services today and Monday, and churches will be ready with special music, decorations and children’s plays.
There will be candles, choirs and carols. Some will have extra greeters standing at doorways and some will even go beyond their church walls, moving services to resorts and halls. And, of course, pastors will have messages that focus on why Christians celebrate Dec. 25.
Pastor Phyllis Meighen of Lihue United Church said, “The true meaning of Christmas is that it truly was the hope of the world that God’s son came to bring peace and joy to earth.”
Pastor Tom Iannucci of Breath of Life Ministries in Lihue said they make an extra effort to reach out on Christmas.
Breath of Life partners with New Hope Lihue for a Christmas Eve service at the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club Grand Ballroom in Lihue, complete with a large holiday choir and hula performance.
The service originally began as an outreach to holiday travelers, but has grown over the years, with many locals attending. More than 500 are expected tonight.
“We want to bring a message of hope to people who might be struggling,” he said.
Waimea United Church of Christ’s evening candlelight service will begin at 7 p.m. and will feature piano, organ and guitar music, with a special hula.
The true meaning of Christmas, said the Rev. Dr. Olaf Hoeckmann- Percival, “is love came down at Christmas and peace was brought to our planet with the birth of Jesus Christ.”
The Bible actually says little about the birth of Christ. It is not mentioned in the gospels of Mark and John.
Luke is the only gospel writer who mentions shepherds, angels and that Mary placed the baby “in a manger because there was no room at the inn.”
Matthew writes about Magi from the east following a star so they can worship the newborn baby, who they believed was the king of the Jews, and bringing gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. The book of Matthew also describes King Herod trying to find the baby, and that Joseph, Mary and the baby fled to Egypt to escape.
The Kapaa Missionary Church will be hosting two services on Christmas Eve. The 9 a.m. service will focus on the light of Christmas, while the evening service will focus on the hope, peace, love and joy of Christmas.
“God has given us hope through the birth of his son Jesus Christ,” said Senior Pastor Jed Young. “With Jesus coming it brings us hope and by dying on the cross He brings us peace, which brings us joy throughout the year.”
But nationwide, pastors might be sharing their message with a smaller crowd this year.
According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4, fewer people will be attending church on Christmas than did four years ago.
Fifty-one percent of Americans say they are planning on attending church services this holiday season, while 45 percent say they will not be attending service.
In a similar survey from 2013 conducted by Pew, 54 percent of Americans said they would be attending a Christmas church service, while 43 percent said they would not.
Regardless, island pastors said they will deliver messages of joy, hope and peace.
Lihue Missionary Church will be hosting one service on Christmas Eve at 5:30 p.m. It will feature their children’s program singing the songs “Happy Birthday Jesus” and “Silent Night.”
“Silent Night” will be sung in both English and Hawaiian accompanied by a hula dance. Pastor Niles Kageyama said his sermon will be entitled “God’s Peace Child.”
“The true meaning of Christmas,” Kageyama said, “is that God sent His son to the world. This much I can say to you, with all of the dark things in the world, there is hope from the one who was born 2,017 years ago.”
For those looking to attending a Christmas service outside a church, New Hope Kauai is having a 9:30 service this morning at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.
Crossroads Christian Fellowship, which meets under a large tent on the Kapaa bypass road, will have a candlelight service at 7 p.m. that includes a children’s choir, special worship hula and a drama presentation, ‘The Perfect Gift.”
Nathen Lojan of Kauai said Christmas is about spending time with his family to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.
His large family is planning to attend church where they will participate in a special dance, he said.
“I love the joy of Christmas,” Lojan said, “and watching everyone be happy.”