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.

Dec 122012
 

Today is that magical numerological date in history 12/12/12 and at 12:12:12 I was sitting down for lunch at a place called Chef Chen because a friend suggested it via Yelp. Where were you?

As Christmas 2012 draws near, the Chuang family (my dear wife and sharp son) are preparing for the 2012 OC Christmas Tour where it’s our family tradition to worship with the extended family of God at as many worship services as we can get to. Last year we made it to 10. We love Christmas!! This year we were aiming for 12, but because of how it falls on the calendar, the odds are against us. Here’s the spreadsheet of Orange County churches with multiple Christmas worship services we know of — add a comment if you know of another one.

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 202011
 

We love Christmas yes we do, we love Christmas how ’bout you? Worshiping Jesus is what Christmas is all about, and in Orange County there are many worship times serve many people. And it’s even possible to worship at 11 different churches for a more fuller and wider experience of worshiping together with a wonderful variety of styles and presentations! It does take considerable planning to pull this off, though.

  

To make this Christmas Tour 2011 possible, I went researching and found 19 OC churches that had special Christmas worship services, starting as early as Wednesday 12/21 all the way through Sunday 12/25. Here’s the schedule charted out via Google Docs’ spreadsheet:

It’s not easy to fit in 11 worship services due to geography and scheduling overlaps. One itinerary to map out the tour:

  1. Wed 7pm @ Saddleback Church, Lake Forest
  2. Thurs 7pm @ Harvest OC, Irvine * Phil Wickham concert
  3. Fri 3pm @ Eastside Christian Church, Fullerton [+ quick dinner]
  4. Fri 7pm @ Seacoast Grace Church, Cypress
  5. Sat 12pm @ ROCKHARBOR, Costa Mesa
  6. Sat 1:30pm @ The Crossing, Costa Mesa [+ early dinner]
  7. Sat 5pm @ Mariners Church, Irvine
  8. Sat 7pm @ St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach
  9. Sat 10:30pm @ Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove
  10. Sun 9am @ Compass Bible Church, Aliso Viejo
  11. Sun 11am @ Coast Hills Church, Aliso Viejo

How would you arrange an itinerary to visit 11 churches for Christmas in the OC?

I confess that I personally won’t be able to get to 11 churches during this Christmas week. I do prioritize family time and that’d include time to be with extended family. What I can do is report my tour stop in real-time via my twitter @djchuang . And note that the above list is an attempt to design a schedule to fit in 11 worship services, and it won’t be the itinerary of my whereabouts. Realistically, I think I can get to 6 or 7 this year – that’d be a great Christmas!

[photo credit: sister72, *clarity*, jeffweese, jdbradley]

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.

Dec 222008
 

Christmas celebrates the coming of Christ into the world. Jesus shows us what God is really like, and shows us what He wants for people. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)

Jesus shows that being spiritual is being engaged in the real world. A real Christian faith is so much more than prayer, Bible reading, attending worship services. And, the Christmas story ought to bring peace and good will to all kinds of people.

Yet, only 7% of U.S. churches are racially diverse.[*]

Q: Why? What are the reasons for its being so low?

A: There are three things, and it depends on the group that we’re talking about, but there’s history, there’s culture, and then there’s social networks. [emphasis mine]

Social networks. The sociological factors that affect church life often go understated, often rationalized in theological constructs. Watch the entire interview from PBS Religion & Ethics:

interracial-churches

[*] Religion and Ethics interview with Michael Emerson, author of People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States; researchers regard a “mixed” congregation as one with at least 20 percent of its members providing racial or ethnic diversity

Aside: for fans of The Office and/or those who can laugh at their own religions, watch the God, Inc. series over at YouTube; note the difference between “really Christian” and “sort of Christian”]