Lessons and Carols continues to spread Christmas cheer

Alana George, Campus Carrier Asst. Arts & Music Editor

carol of the bells
Director of Choral Activities Paul Neal conducts the choir, congregation and orchestra during a Lessons and Carols service. Photos courtesy of Paul Neal.

Berry’s annual Lessons and Carols concert returns on Saturday for its 29th year.

This Christian service, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, started at Cambridge University at the King’s College. According to Cambridge’s website, the first service, nine lessons from Scripture with nine carols sung in between, was on Christmas Eve in 1918, so this year marks the service’s 100th anniversary.

According to Berry Chaplain Jonathan Huggins, the nine scriptural lessons all relate to the Biblical story of the birth of Christ.

“There will be Old Testament readings that are pointing to the coming of Christ, and then readings that describe or explain the coming of Christ, so it’s a very explicitly Christian worship gathering,” Huggins said.

A unique aspect of the service is the variety of people chosen to read the lessons. At Berry, the first lesson is presented by a student from the Berry Elementary School, and the readers move up in seniority as the service goes on, with the last lesson being read by President Steve Briggs.

once I found a stowaway
The Berry Singers perform classic Christmas hymns and other holiday choral pieces at Lessons and Carols.

“It shows that the story is for all people, young and old,” Huggins said.

The service was brought to Berry by former Director of Choral Activities Harry Musselwhite, who was succeeded by Paul Neal. Neal loves the music of the service for its religious beauty.

“We always try to pick carols that speak to the readings that are done, so whatever carol we do always has some relationship to the reading that happens right before it,” Neal said.

Neal also emphasized the importance of the congregation’s involvement in the service. He said the service is an opportunity for the congregation to sing old favorites, as well as some new pieces.

“It’s an opportunity for us to present music that is more of a sacred nature,” Neal said. “Now we do a lot of secular things, so it’s fun to sing a program that’s all sacred music. It really allows us to sing a whole other level of music that not only is inspiring musically but is inspiring religiously too.”

trans siberian orchestra
The Berry College Symphony Orchestra performs at Lessons and Carols.

For students who profess a different faith or none at all, Huggins cited some reasons why it is valuable for all students to attend Christian services like Lessons and Carols.

“One of the great reasons to attend a religious service is to have an informed perspective on that religion,” Huggins said. “If you want to see what Christmas means to Christians and how they celebrate it, that would be a worthwhile experience.”

Huggins also said that a religious service of this kind helps clear away a lot of what he views as the American, materialistic production of Christmas. He said that in the West today, people get so caught up in the commercialism of the holidays that they can forget what the holiday is truly about. A service of this nature reminds people of the so-called reason for the season.

The 2018 Lessons and Carols service begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the College Chapel.

One thought on “Lessons and Carols continues to spread Christmas cheer

  1. Thank you for having a Live Broadcast for the Lessons and Carols in the Chapel this year. I truly hope it can be repeated every year going forward. Showcased the fabulous Fine Arts Department at Berry. Thank you Dr. Paul Neal.

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