Christmas at the Durham Performing Arts Center kicks off tonight with the first of six shows. (You hype yet?) For many people at The Summit Church, our annual tradition of meeting at DPAC just makes sense. To them, it’s as much a part of the season as Christmas trees, nativity scenes, and that super creepy elf on the shelf.

But it wasn’t too long ago that we didn’t think the Summit could do much for Christmas at all. As late as 2010, we didn’t think anyone would be around for a Christmas Eve service. We assumed that everyone was home visiting family, so we settled for singing a few Christmas carols and passing out cookies for the kids.

(That’s right: There used to be cookies. Don’t tell your kids.)

Early in 2011, though, a few of our leaders started to ask if we were approaching things the wrong way. What if, instead of focusing on the people who wouldn’t come, we focused on drawing in those who were here? And what if we tried something a little more ambitious—and, quite frankly, risky—than we had done in the past?

So in 2011, we created an entertaining Christmas show at our Brier Creek campus. When every service was filled to overflowing, we realized that we were still thinking too small.

We began to wonder: What if, instead of inviting our community to come join us for Christmas at the Summit, we took the Summit to our community? No one is exactly sure who first floated the idea, but at some point, someone mentioned the Durham Performing Arts Center.

The notion was as audacious as it was frightening. Churches didn’t rent out venues like DPAC. It simply was not done. The venue was far too big. The logistics were far too complicated. The idea itself … far too different.

And yet, as the weeks wore on, the idea became less and less absurd. Sure, it would be a mammoth undertaking. It might be a colossal failure. But it would also send a message to the community. By taking Christmas to DPAC, we would be saying, “We want to be a church for our community, in our community.”

So we gave it a whirl. It was an enormous enterprise, but when the final curtain fell, thousands of people had heard the message of Christmas—and not just stories about a quaint little baby born thousands of years ago but the revolutionary news of a God who entered into our world on a divine rescue mission. By the grace of God, lives were changed that year.

So we haven’t looked back.

Over the years we’ve seen drumlines and downpours. Tubas and tambourines. Falling snow and flying keytars.

We don’t bring Christmas to DPAC because it’s easy. It’s certainly not. Ask anyone who is involved, and you’ll quickly find out that this takes sacrifice, time, and good old-fashioned hard work. We invest sweat (though we always clean it up). We shed blood (though not usually on purpose). At times there are tears (though we can usually figure out a way to get Pastor J.D. to stop quickly enough). And yet, with every passing year, there is a growing sense that every scrap of effort is absolutely worth it.

Christmas at DPAC is a fantastic opportunity to impact our city with the good news of Jesus. It allows us to invite people from every walk of life to experience the Summit in a fun and familiar location. It gives us the opportunity to display Jesus in a way that many people have never experienced. More than anything, it provides us with a chance to be a living, breathing, singing, shouting sign for the gospel.

You see, Christmas at DPAC isn’t about the music or the talent or the volunteers or even the venue. It’s about a message. The beauty of an event like Christmas at DPAC—and of a celebration like Christmas itself—is that it gives us the opportunity to proclaim a message of hope to a hopeless world, a message of peace to those who are living in despair, a message of light to those who dwell in the land of darkness. At Christmas, we gather to marvel at a God who wanted to get this message to us so desperately that he came to earth himself to deliver it.

So from all of us at the Summit to all of you: Merry Christmas! We’ll see you at the DPAC!