Behind the scenes as Gustavus preps for Christmas in Christ Chapel - St. Peter MN: News

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Behind the scenes as Gustavus preps for Christmas in Christ Chapel

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Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 7:15 am | Updated: 10:04 am, Wed Nov 28, 2012.

Students from Gustavus Adolphus College slowly wound their way across campus and toward Christ Chapel Sunday night, some still feeling the effects of Thanksgiving dinner as they entered through the chapel’s sculpture-adorned doors, discarded coats and scarfs on the wooden pews and lined up to rehearse for the college’s upcoming Christmas service.

Christmas in Christ Chapel will be held Nov. 30 through Dec. 2 and is themed “Jubilee: Proclaiming the Year of the Lord’s Favor.” The college will be celebrating two anniversaries during this year’s celebration, the 40th year of Christmas in Christ Chapel and the 50th year–the Jubilee year–of Christ Chapel.

“Christmas in Christ Chapel comes as the crowning event in the 50th year of this jeweled cathedral at the center of our beloved Gustavus campus,” Gustavus Interim Senior Chaplain Rod Anderson said. “This year’s program will once again gather the voices, instruments and artistic talents of more than 350 gifted students and conductors who will celebrate the season’s calling to celebrate with families, alumn and friends who come home to the college to hear the Christmas message.”

The liturgy at this year’s Christmas in Christ Chapel services will explore the implications of the biblical Jubilee, which calls for a return to shalom, that is, the restoration of God’s intention for all of creation.

“Every seven years of seven years, every 49 years, should be declared a year of Jubilee,” Anderson said sitting in a wooden pew near the center of the chapel. “It has been 50 years this chapel has stood here, since 1962.”

Anderson said Jubilee presents the opportunity to reflect upon our relationship with God, one another and the earth and to reflect upon the Word made flesh in Jesus the Christ. He also said Jubliee is a time for justice and making things right.

A unique feature of this year’s Christmas in Christ Chapel program will be the use of The Saint John’s Bible. Described as a gift of sacred art, The Saint John’s Bible is a hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible commissioned by Saint John’s Abbey and University and created by renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson.

It is the first illuminated, handwritten Bible of monumental size to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in more than 500 years. The entire Bible using the New Revised Standard Version is presented in seven volumes of 1,150 pages.

“It’s so large it needs to be carried by two people,” Anderson said. “It will be central during the service.”

According to Anderson, the Bible will rest on a wooden podium located directly in front of the orchestra and in the midst of the congregation. Several illuminations from The Saint John’s Bible will be projected in Christ Chapel during Christmas in Christ Chapel services. In addition, six volumes of the Heritage Edition will be on display in the President’s Dining Room inside the C. Charles Jackson Campus Center from Nov. 3 through Dec. 2.

A tradition since 1973, Christmas in Christ Chapel is a time for the Gustavus community to celebrate the holidays with one another through music, dance, spoken word and prayer. Approximately 350 students, faculty and staff bring the program to life each year through the use of music and visual art.

“It’s when Gustavus comes home,” Anderson said. “Alums come. Parents come. Friends of the college come. The chapel really represents home to everyone who has been a student since 1962.”

According to Anderson, the chapel will be decorated with fresh-cut Minnesota Christmas greens accented in gold, a traditional Jubilee color and one used predominately in The Saint John’s Bible. Choirs, orchestras, and dance ensembles will perform at each of the five services, with approximately 1,200 people attending each one.

Kari Louwagie, a freshman, said this will be her first time performing in Christ Chapel.

“I think it will be a really special moment because it’s something that’s really important to the Gustavus community and I’m really excited to be a part of that,” Louwagie said.

Gustavus Adolphus College’s Media Relations office contributed to this report.

Reach reporter Jessica Bies at 507-931-8578 or follow her on @sphjessicabies

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