This article was written by Gracen Goudy, a student at Ouachita Baptist University pursuing a major in Mass Communications.
Arkadelphia AR – On December 6, students at Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) gathered in the Jones Performing Arts Center (JPAC) for the last chapel of the semester. It was a time set aside to celebrate the upcoming season of Christmas. Christmas hymns were sung by a variety of students and a message was shared by Professor Adam Jones. Standing side-by-side, each student passed their candle to light the flame of their peer’s candle to conclude with a candlelight service.
The flame of the candle represented the hope we have in our Savior. But it also reminded us of more — the sweetness of gathering together to worship, acknowledging our Savior together, humbling ourselves to the Christmas meaning instead of isolated in our homes.
Students came to campus in August wearing masks and social distancing but longing for the normalcy they once had. As the semester continued, restrictions lightened up as COVID-19 cases began to drop on campus. Tiger Tunes practices began and students were able to perform on the JPAC stage for family, friends and alumni because of an all-time low number of cases. The Battle of the Ravine rolled around and students were able to celebrate and take part in this longtime beloved tradition. As the end of the semester approached, one last tradition remained.
Christmas at Ouachita is different. It’s special. It’s a gathering of young and old, student and professor, campus and community, all for one purpose: to celebrate our Savior together. The togetherness was something that was missed last Christmas season.
Last Christmas, due to the pandemic, we waited for other things too, like singing Christmas carols led by the Ouachita Singers, Women’s Chorus, and Ouachita Brass Ensemble in Berry Chapel. We missed listening to the ring of the handbells echo throughout McClellan rotunda as well as attending the annual campus tree lighting.
Senior Clara Taylor from White Hall cherished this Christmas season even more being a part of Ouachita’s music department.
“I actually got really emotional during Lessons and Carols whenever we were singing Silent Night,” Taylor said. “It is a traditional service more for worship and thanksgiving. I got really emotional thinking of where we were last year and where we are now. This is my last Lessons and Carols to do with my choir, and it was really emotional for me but all happy tears.”
The community attends many Ouachita Christmas events including a favorite, Festival of Christmas. A two-night performance, Ouachita’s choir and others perform holiday hits and cherished Christmas carols. When Taylor and the rest of the music department heard of the return of Festival of Christmas, they were thrilled. They began preparing and practicing at the start of school in August.
“I remember after the first night of Festival of Christmas, someone in our choir shared with us how it impacted her Elder Serve partner,” Taylor said. “She was paired with an older lady to visit and shared that Festival of Christmas impacted her so much because she lost her husband during COVID-19. It brought the meaning of why we do what we do into perspective and how meaningful it is for everyone else. We go through hours of rehearsal and by the time we actually perform it’s just another thing but getting to see smiles on people’s faces who you haven’t seen in so long and people who haven’t been able to get out or do much because of the situation and environment, it’s just so meaningful. It’s really rewarding for all of our work.”
With all the celebrations, Ouachita prioritized elevating the true meaning of the season. While students attended Christmas Refuge wearing fun Christmas sweaters, the message was centered around the hope we have in Christ. Every fun Christmas event ended with a reminder of the coming of Christ.
Christmas at Ouachita had a deeper meaning this season compared to last. Our hope in Christ remained the same, but the way we acknowledged and worshiped this hope was done in fellowship and community, something we missed last season.