A New Reason for the Christmas Season

It is often said about Christmas, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” I completely agree. I also believe that there is a new reason for the season. Let me explain.

 For many, many years, Easter was considered the greatest outreach opportunity for the local church. Now Easter has competition; the Christmas Season. We saw this cultural shift in 2015 and adjusted our approach to our Christmas Eve services at GracePoint accordingly. That year we called it a Big Band Christmas. This new approach had us starting with familiar Christmas songs most people have grown up hearing on the radio. We even rented snow machines that made it is snow inside while we sang, “Let it Snow.” Our goal was to start with the fun and familiar before transitioning to the spiritual.

 A year later, we added a new event on the Sunday following Thanksgiving, Christmas Tree Lighting, the official launch of the Christmas Season here at GracePoint. By sheer attendance numbers alone, this new Christmas season strategy has proven to be very successful.

While Easter attendance numbers remain strong, attendance at church events and/or services during the Christmas season have climbed significantly. For example, in 2016 our attendance at Christmas Eve services surpassed our Easter attendance for the first time ever. Last year, real snow arrived before our last Christmas Eve service or it would have easily surpassed Easter attendance again. Why is this trend happening? People and families are craving a Christmas experience like never before. Maybe it’s being driven by nostalgia, or a void in our culture, or the result of scattered families. I am not exactly sure, but the craving is real.

 Last week I was part of a national webinar regarding this exact topic and it was stated that, “Christmas is now the only Christian holiday that is celebrated in America. It is a common cultural pause.” While many in our post-Christian American culture don’t know or have forgotten the real meaning of Christmas, the draw for having a Christmas experience is increasing. What an incredible opportunity for churches who truly want to reach their community for Jesus. We do!

 So let me walk you through our upcoming Christmas season events and how they are tailor made for all of us to invite our friends, neighbors, and co-workers who normally don’t attend church.

 Christmas Tree Lighting

On November 25, our Christmas Tree Lighting will launch our Christmas season. This is a whole family event where there will be hot chocolate, treats, crafts, sneak previews of our Christmas Dessert Theater, photos with Santa, and even live reindeer! We conclude with walking together outside while singing Christmas carols and then pulling the switch that lights up the west side of our church property with a brilliant display of Christmas lights!

 This is an easy invite opportunity that is fast becoming a community-gathering event in Kitsap County. This year we may need to shuttle to and from the Wal-Mart parking lot in order to handle the growing crowd that comes. Invite a PlusOne and help us launch our Christmas season in a fun way!

Christmas Dessert Theater

This outreach event had its origin in the year 2000. However, in 2009 we made a strategic shift in going away from putting on church plays to performing well-known Broadway musicals such as It’s a Wonderful Life, Annie, Fiddler on the Roof, The Music Man, etc. As a result, we saw a significant increase of unchurched attendance from our community. More importantly, each year we see people choosing to come back to GracePoint for a Christmas Eve service, as well as Easter, where they hear about Jesus and the gospel. This “outreach” event has become a literal outreach into our community.

This year we are producing Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Because of the high quality production CDT has become known for, ticket sales have increased each year.  As of October 9th, we are already ⅓ sold out! Word is out about CDT around Kitsap County.

The purpose of CDT is not to entertain those who attend GracePoint Church. Its purpose is to provide an easy invite and onramp opportunity to those in our community who normally do not attend church. So, invite your friends, coworkers, family and neighbors to see the show WITH you. Consider buying tickets for them as a Christmas present. Maybe have dinner together beforehand.

Here’s my story. I invited our next door neighbors to CDT, Christmas Eve, and Easter for many years. Each time they kindly declined. However, when the invite came for Brigadoon, they quickly said “Yes!” I found out later that Brigadoon was the wife’s favorite musical. It was exciting to sit together as neighbors. They admitted afterwards that their expectations were easily and quickly surpassed by the quality and excellence of the orchestra, acting, singing, dancing, and scenes. Guess who showed up for Easter? My neighbors! The next year they came to CDT with their kids and grandson. As a result of CDT, they are completely open and appreciative for every invite we send their way.

Remember, we are already ⅓ sold out this year. Invite your PlusOne and plan on buying your tickets soon!

Christmas Eve Services

The desire for Christmas Eve is to provide a great Christmas experience for all who attend. Our creative team has already met multiple times to make this desire a reality. We are having lots of fun and are excited at the direction this year is taking!

The ultimate goal, however, is to point everyone to the real meaning of Christmas. Although this year will be engaging, reminiscing, relevant, and fun, we will eventually arrive at the first Christmas as told in Luke 2.

With the desire of providing a great Christmas experience for all, at the biggest outreach of the year, it took us three planning meetings to land on the best dates and times to hit our desired target. Focusing on the desire, goal, and outreach purpose for Christmas Eve, here are the dates and times:

  • Friday, December 21 @ 7 PM

  • Saturday, December 22 @ 7 PM

  • Sunday, December 23 @ 7 PM

  • Monday, December 24 @ 3 & 5 PM

Last year we held two of our Christmas Eve services on Sunday morning. What we found was the great majority of GracePoint people came to those two services. What we were lacking at the other services were our own people helping us with being engaged with our guests as well as being engaged with the service. This year we are hoping to fill each of our services with GracePoint people who are coming WITH their PlusOne’s! Plus, choosing these times will allow us to hit our desire, together, at providing a great Christmas experience for all who come. More importantly, I could really use GracePoint people at every service praying throughout the service for people to capture the real meaning of Christmas found in Luke 2.

A new idea we are trying out this year is purchasing our own website for this outreach event called ChristmasForKitsap.com. It will be a helpful tool for our PlusOne’s to see sights, sounds, and information of what they could expect if they choose to come to any of our five services. It will also have links to our church website for additional information.

Again, the Christmas season is now becoming the greatest outreach opportunity in our culture. We are embracing this with excitement and asking you to join with us in this endeavor. Together, we have three great opportunities this Christmas season to plant seeds and make invites to help people meet, know, and follow Jesus!

Barry Bandara

Lead Pastor