When Ouachita Baptist University students, faculty, staff and guests gather on Dec. 4 for A Service of Lessons and Carols, they will have the opportunity to participate in a traditional Christmas service that dates back to the late 1800s. For Ouachita, A Service of Lessons and Carols began in 1997 and has become an annual part of the Christmas season on campus. This year’s service will be held Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 7:30 p.m. in Ouachita’s W. Francis McBeth Recital Hall.
“A Service of Lessons and Carols helps the Ouachita community truly understand the meaning of the Christmas season,” said Dr. Gary Gerber, chair of Ouachita’s Division of Music, professor of music and director of choral activities.
This special church service originated in the rural Anglican churches of England. On Christmas Eve, the congregation would crowd into a temporary wooden shed, meant to resemble the stable in which Christ was born. In 1918, the service was adopted by the chapel of King’s College in Cambridge, and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) began sending A Service of Lessons and Carols to radios across the country and throughout the world. Even in the face of World War II, people were listening to A Service of Lessons and Carols every Christmas. Now, Ouachita continues to observe that same meaningful tradition.
Each Service of Lessons and Carols includes nine readings from scripture, separated by carols that reinforce the lesson. These nine lessons urge the audience to remember the fall of man, the blessings of Abraham, the prophecies of Isaiah and the birth of Christ, when the Word became flesh. A different translation of the Bible is used each year in an effort to keep the passages meaningful and fresh for readers and listeners alike. The readers come from across Ouachita’s academic schools and administrative offices, with the final reading presented by Ouachita President Rex Horne.
Ian Cosh, vice president for community and international engagement, will introduce the service by explaining the history and format. Gerber will direct the Ouachita Singers. David Stanley, instructor of music, will direct the Women’s Chorus. Dr. Rob Hewell, associate professor of music and director of the Worship Studies Program, will lead the Ouachita Handbell Ringers. John Briggs, adjunct instructor of music, will serve as organist. Some of the carols will be congregational, encouraging audience participation, with the service as a whole designed to be “reverent and worshipful,” Gerber said.
“Ouachita’s annual Service of Lessons and Carols is a wonderful celebration of the incarnation of God in Christ,” Hewell said. “The carefully selected Scripture readings join with glorious carols to connect us with Christians around the world who participate in the Lessons and Carols tradition. It’s a powerful thing, really, when you think about it.”
For more information, contact OBU’s School of Fine Arts at (870) 245-5129.
By Rachel Gregory