Note: This next bit is in my most recent newsletter, which some of you probably have received by now. However, please check out the photo gallery that’s been added because I put in a lot of pictures that are not in the newsletter. Enjoy!
Every year, the Christmas theme engulfs China. Starting December 1st, Christmas trees, Santa Claus posters, and holiday decorations are sold up and down the streets of every city in the country.
Christmas Eve is popularly known as “平安夜” (Ping Ahn Yeh, or Peace Night) but no one has a clue about its religious significance. At this time, educating others about Christianity becomes the sole purpose of the Chinese churches, which are crowded with curious onlookers on Christmas Eve. It is the one night when Chinese Christians have a huge audience of non-believers who are ready to hear the word of God.
On Peace Night, the opportunity for evangelism is at an all-time high. This year, under the leadership of senior pastors Liao and Zhang, our services concentrated on educating others about the Christian faith. As always, everything was in Chinese, accompanied by power point visuals so all could easily understand and follow together in singing, readings and responses.
We opened with a traditional 30-minute worship to give newcomers a taste of what Sunday is like in church. Scripture was read, the choir sang two anthems, all were invited to join in “Hark the Herald” and “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful” and a short message was given.
After that, the full 2-hour performance program began. Biblical story re-enactments of the Garden of Eden, Jesus’ birth, and the Sermon on the Mount were given. The choir sang a moving Good Friday anthem with accompanying movie clip of Christ’s graphic crucifixion scene from Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ.” The resurrection was celebrated in Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, also sung by the choir. As a closing to the evening, a 20-minute riveting revival message was given by Associate Pastor Mao followed by an altar call. Over 50 of all ages came to the stage where our pastors prayed for everyone. Before stepping down, all those who came forth received a China Christian Council booklet introducing Christianity and what it means to be a Christian.
This is the first year where the entire Christmas Eve service concentrated 100% on Christianity, not on Christmas commercialized entertainment. We had no Santa Claus who threw candy to the excited congregation before midnight, or the showering of Santa hats from the balcony as we’ve had in previous years. Instead, the closure of our program was much more meaningful for those of us who are Christians and those who were seeking a different way of life than the one they’ve been leading. Blessings, joy and hope abounded for the upcoming new year in our 103-year-old sanctuary. I have no doubt many who came for the first time will return again.