Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Celebrating an International Christmas

My hubby and I just returned from a wonderfully relaxing two-week vacation in Hawaii. What an awesome place at any time of year, but particularly during the holidays! Let me tell you about the highlight of our entire trip.

Since we knew we’d be there during Christmas, one of the first things I did after arriving in the islands was to locate a church close to where we were staying, one that was planning a Christmas Eve service. (I know not all churches do that anymore, but I absolutely adore Christmas Eve services, don’t you? Especially the dangerous ones with little children waving lit candles in the otherwise darkened sanctuary!) I found one just a couple of miles from our condo and nailed down the particulars on the service, looking forward to it with more anticipation than I did Santa’s visits when I was a child. Sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed!

That evening we drove up to the lovely little chapel just a few minutes before the scheduled service was about to begin. Surprisingly, there were few cars in the parking lot, so we had no problem finding good seats. But as the time for the service to start came and went and people continued to pour in, I remembered we were on “Hawaii time.” Unlike many of us mainlanders (particularly yours truly, who is never late for anything!), Hawaiians get there…well, when they get there.

As a result, though the service started about fifteen minutes late, it was with a packed house—and a congregation that reflected so many ethnic and cultural variations! We soon learned that although the Baptists celebrated/worshiped in the building on Sunday mornings, a Hawaiian-dialect congregation used the facilities to gather together on Sunday afternoons. Then a Samoan congregation met there every Sunday evening. All three congregations came together on Christmas Eve to worship the same Lord and Savior, and to commemorate His birth. And, of course, several of us tourists were there to join them as well.

What an experience! We heard the Christmas story read from Luke 2 in English, Hawaiian, and Samoan. We also had the joy of hearing three choirs sing in their respective native language, and though we didn’t truly understand all the words, we felt as if we did.

Throughout that touching and unique Christmas Eve service, I thought, This is how it will be in heaven! All countries, peoples, cultures will be gathered together into one body, singing and worshiping and praising the One who died for all. And I wept with joy.

Did I garner new writing material from my trip to the islands? Of course I did. We writers can find topics for our books/articles/stories just about anywhere. But this event is one that will stand out in my memory for a long time to come. It was a bit of an international Christmas, just a taste of the joy we will experience when we are all united (and reunited) in heaven for all eternity. I look forward to seeing you there!


  1. What fun, Kathi, but more than that, what a blessing you received. Sounds like an experience for your memory chest. Thanks for sharing a touching and delightful post with us.

  2. Oh Kathi, how lovely! That takes me right back to Thailand. We were in a tribal area in the north east. The local Lahu church had blown down so we conducted the service under a blue tarpaulin. The Christmas message came first in English by my husband, then in Thai, then in Lahu. And we all sang the carols in our own languages.

  3. What an awesome way to experience Christmas! I identified with your revelation of how it will be in heaven. I once attended an international indigenous worship conference. Wow! New Zealand Maouri's doing their Hakka, American Indians with their drums, Australian Aboriginies with their digeridoos, plenty of islanders dancing and singing, and even some Jews with the shofar. All at the same time!! I will never forget it. :)

  4. I love Pacific Island led services. My husband and I attended many in the 11 years we worked in the developing nation of Vanuatu. We called time keeping there 'island time'. We adopted it readily. We're getting so much better now we are here in America.

  5. Sounds like a wonderful service. Won't heaven be great?