Bethel Celebrates 67th Festival of Christmas

This year’s theme, So to Honor Him, celebrates the birth of Jesus and the gift of shared connection.

By Macey Heath, social media content strategist

December 12, 2023 | 9 a.m.

Festival of Christmas

The 67th Festival of Christmas, which commenced on November 30 with the theme, So to Honor Him, saw the Bethel community come together once again to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season.

President Ross Allen opened the event expressing gratitude toward the performers and everyone involved in making Festival possible. He emphasized the message of this year’s theme, of how Jesus, a gift from God, was sent to teach us to love one another, which is at the core of Bethel’s mission: to spread the love and goodness of Christ in the world.

"We recognize our gifts are from God and we want to use them for God."

— Merrin Guice Gill, Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities

Festival artistic director Merrin Guice Gill articulates that this year’s theme, So to Honor Him, was chosen to acknowledge our innate gifts from God. “We recognize our gifts are from God and we want to use them for God,” she says. Guice Gill, who initiated the festival’s planning alongside the entire music and theatre department last spring, hoped the audience would leave with an important message: “Give your best gifts to the uplifting and praise of God because He first loved us.” New this year, Guice Gill notes, was the incorporation of colorful streamers in the finale. The streamers, which were originally used many years ago, were retrieved from retirement to introduce a fresh dynamic to the performance.

Performers presented a breathtaking showcase that began with the first processional of “The Little Drummer Boy,” with the choir moving through the balcony and audience seating, each holding candles to illuminate the occasion.

The festive atmosphere resonated with the sounds of well-known holiday tunes, setting a serene tone that transported the audience from the hustle of daily life to the enchantment of the Christmas season. Notable performances included the choir’s rendition of “We Three Kings,” the handbell ensemble’s, “O Sing a Song of Bethlehem,” and the wind symphony’s “Only Light,” all beautifully woven into the theme and capturing the true spirit of the season. 

Audience members had the opportunity to participate in cherished carols, such as “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” throughout the performances. Narrators delivered scripture readings throughout the program, highlighting the birth of Jesus and breathing life into the musical performances. The grand finale featured a spectacular display of color and chorus, as all musicians joined in with Beethoven’s “Joyful, Joyful,” adding elements of contemporary music style, a solo vocal performance, streamers moving above the audience, and a powerful moment of praise.

The students’ dedication and passion shone through every performance, making this year’s Festival of Christmas an unforgettable experience.  As the magic of the event unfolded, it embodied the enduring tradition that unites the Bethel community in worship, faith, and the celebration of the true meaning of Christmas.

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Serving Others Through Music.

From private lessons to countless hours in practice rooms and rehearsals, Bethel University’s music and theatre department prepares students to make a lifetime of impact with their talents. We integrate our faith into everything we learn and do, empowering us to achieve incredible things in our careers, communities, and the world.

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