Dec 182013
 

Merry Christmas! What better way is there than to worship God in Jesus Christ during Christmas week? This year I’m in the metro Washington DC area with family; and it’s become a family tradition to worship at as many church services as possible during Christmas week. Here’s my working spreadsheet, as I prepare my itinerary. And, for all year round, here’s a list of the most popular (aka: largest) churches in the metro DC area, that would include Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Do you love singing Christmas carols and celebrating this way too? [see my spreadsheet]

best-christmas
And, then after Christmas, I’ll be up in Baltimore for #CMC2013, a Chinese Mission Convention hosted by AFC Inc.

Mar 182012
 

The 2 most powerful things about the Christian faith get celebrated year after year: Easter for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death to life, and Christmas for the incarnation of Jesus Christ born as a baby from a virgin. Both supernatural and miraculous. And being raised from the dead is a far bigger miracle than a baby’s birth, and so much so that The Apostle Paul rightly argued that the Christian faith is practically null and void if not for the reality of the resurrection: “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

So why does it seem like Christmas is a bigger deal than Easter? I have my own speculations and theories as to the reasons why, but I sure want to hear from you. Add a comment. Is it the presents? Is it the snow? Is it the holiday movies?

From this unofficial tally of worship services at 20 larger churches in Orange County, California, there were 99 for Christmas vs. 113 for Easter. So maybe Easter is bigger than Christmas for church-goers, and Christmas is bigger for American culture at large?

My family joyously celebrated Christmas at 10 churches this past December. Not sure how many churches we’ll celebrate Easter with just yet. But I am putting a spreadsheet together to begin scheming…

(cf. List of Popular Churches in the OC and Southern California)

Dec 272011
 

We had a most memorable Christmas this year as a family, having family time together _and_ family time with the Family of God, as we took an OC Christmas tour all over Orange County to attend Christmas week worship services at a total of 10 churches. (Couldn’t quite make it to 11, as originally proposed; kept the family a priority and not the events.) I’m happy that my family (wife and 14-year-old son) could enjoy these times with me – I know that many people don’t enjoy so many church worship services as I do (if any at all). Here’s my video about the OC Christmas Tour, with on-site debriefs compiled together into one:

Thanks to all the staff and volunteers at each of the 10 churches for celebrating Jesus’ birth and making our Christmas all the merrier:

  1. Harvest OC, Irvine
  2. Eastside Christian Church, Fullerton
  3. Friends Church, Yorba Linda
  4. NewSong Church, Irvine
  5. ROCKHARBOR, Costa Mesa
  6. Saddleback Church, Lake Forest
  7. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach
  8. Mariners Church, Irvine
  9. Kingsfield Church, Aliso Viejo
  10. Coast Hills Church, Aliso Viejo

   
While I won’t name any one particular church service as a favorite or as the best, I will list these highlights and comments:

  • Biggest Surprise: big-band-style concert band at Friends Church
  • Most creative production: shadow-puppets retelling the Big Story at ROCKHARBOR (Journey of Joy video) [probably over 1,000 pieces cut-out & painted and every performance live!]
  • Best Christmas gift: family portrait photo-shoot at Eastside Christian Church
  • No more room in the inn (full-capacity crowds): Harvest OC, ROCKHARBOR, Saddleback Church, Mariners Church
  • The more popular Christmas songs: Silent Night, Angels We Have Heard on High, Joy to the World, O Holy Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  • Don’t recall hearing: Away in a Manger, O Come All Ye Faithful, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Deck the Halls, Jingle Bell Rock
  • Most consistently-presented theme: Eastside Christian Church [paper-mache Christmas trees and paper snowball as physical prop for responding to sermon to "let go"]
  • Most comfortable seating: Friends Church, Coast Hills Church
  • Screen with the widest aspect-ratio: Kingsfield Church
  • What we didn’t see: a Gospel Choir, Handel’s Messiah, Christmas musical cantata, live Nativity with live animals, drama/skit
  • Quietest worship time: late-night 11pm worship in the chapel at Mariners Church (very cool to hear the chapel bells ring at midnight of Christmas)
  • Best-dressed choir: St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (actually, the only choir we saw, and they sounded great!)
  • Children singing: Eastside Christian Church, NewSong Church


And the memories that stay with me about the OC Christmas Tour 2011 and a few learnings about churches: Christmas has inspired people all walks of life, not just churches and those who follow Jesus, most obviously through the arts and movies. We love a wide variety of expressions of worship in different churches. Churches really do produce their best worship services for Christmas, and that takes a ton of planning, preparation, and volunteers. It takes a lot of planning of logistics to get from one church to the next — gotta tip your hat to itinerant speakers/preachers who travel a lot. I can sympathize with those who go to church for the first time (or rarely), and how being in a strange place not knowing where to go or what to do is quite daunting.

And, for us, you can never get too much of Christmas!

Dec 242009
 

Yes, it is Christmas Eve, and I am out of ideas for how many other ways to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. So I’m keeping it simple and short, and wishing you a Merry Christmas. Watch the video in 30 seconds ::

For these holiday seasons, both Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s the mixed emotions of being with extended family members that many only see this one time of year. Then, there’s my lil’ online family too, those who connect with me and one another via blogging, twitter, facebook, skype, and tokbox. My life is so much richer for both on-line and off-line relationships. I enjoy them both so.

And, back by popular demand, here’s the Chuang Chess Christmas e-card for 2009! [PDF download] Thank you again for staying connected and I’m anticipating more connections, conversations, and opportunities in the new year with you, both on-line and on-site.

Apr 112009
 

You’re invited to the celebrate Easter with me and 1,000s of others tomorrow — there’s a huge Easter Celebration tomorrow (Sun 4/12) at the Pacific Amphitheater (OC Fair & Event Center) in Costa Mesa, California. 9:00am and 11:15am. It’s a big deal — the amphitheater has 8,500 seats! Of course the event is free, and hospitality will overflow with donuts, coffee, and bottled water.

n65929250473_2270

The incognito church is Rock Harbor. The church has estimated weekend attendance of around 5,000 (according to Wikipedia). This un-branding approach does fit their value for “giving ourselves away.”

It is common practice for churches (or any other organization) to host a community event as a way of attracting and inviting people to their church (or organization). At this Easter Celebration, the event website lists more than a dozen churches in the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. Yet, far as I know, only this one church is (primarily?) running the event.

Do you know of any other (large-ish) churches that would do a large-ish event, yet without advertising their church?

I’d be curious what Dawn Nicole Baldwin thinks of this.

[disclosure: Rock Harbor is my home church.]

Dec 222005
 

Scot “Jesus Creed” McKnight makes a gracious appeal in When Christmas falls on Sunday that Christians of all people can and should show Good Will Toward Megachurches, those that have decided to celebrate a day (or two) earlier and to close on Sunday. I would add a Biblical proof text (for those that like the ipsissima verba) and an appeal on how celebrations often fall on the eve of a special day.

1. “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.” (Romans 14:5-6a)

2. Who celebrates New Year’s on New Year’s Day? Celebrate on the Eve or earlier, at hundreds of Christmas Celebrations before Sunday, December 25th, 2005 [multiple services]:

Willow Creek Community Church (South Barrington, IL) [8]
Southland Christian Church (Nicholasville, KY) [4]
Crossroads Christian Church (Lexington, KY) [3]
Fellowship Church (Grapevine, TX) [11]
Watermark Community Church (Dallas, TX) [2]
Redemption World Outreach Center (Greenville, SC) [2 live, 6 streamed online]
Seacoast Church (Charleston, SC and other locations) [16]
North Point Community Church (Alpharetta, GA) [3]
Grace Fellowship Church (Timonium, MD) [5]
Church of the Redeemer (Gaithersburg, MD) [4]
Northview Christian Life Church (Carmel, IN) [5]
Grace Community Church (Noblesville, IN) [6]
Calvary Chapel (Fort Lauderdale, FL) [9]
Christ Fellowship (Palm Beach Gardens, FL) [13]
Flamingo Road Church (Fort Lauderdale, FL) [5]
Christ the Rock Community Church (Cooper City, FL) [4]
RockHarbor (Costa Mesa, CA) [7]
Northland, A Church Distributed (Longwood, FL) [10]
Kensington Community Church (Troy, MI) [18]
Bridgeway Community Church (Columbia, MD) [6]
Grace Community Church (Columbia, MD) [6]
Reston Bible Church (Reston, VA) [3]
Journey’s Crossing (Gaithersburg, MD) [2]
NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) [5]
LifeChurch (locations in OK and AZ and TX) [20]
Neighborhood Church (Redding, CA) [4]
Center Point Church (North Richland Hills, TX) [3]
Revolution Church (Long Beach, CA) [2]

And even though Willow Creek Closes Doors on Christmas; Hybels Still to Preach on Sunday at a different church:

Two of the largest mega churches in the Chicago area will join hands this holiday season to hold what may possibly be the largest Christmas Day service in the nation. The Rev. Bill Hybels of Willowcreek Church will preach alongside the Rev. James Meeks of the House of Hope Church in Chicago. Together, the two churches have more than 30,000 members.

And here’s a flashy invite to experience Christmas Presence. I’ll see how many services I can experience, though probably short of 20. Merry Christmas to you and yours!