Bob Jones University is preparing for a campus-wide celebration of Christmas with an emphasis on serving others and serving the student body through the final exams of the semester. The celebration will culminate on Dec. 3 with the annual Christmas lighting ceremony, Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing and the annual Christmas Radio Broadcast.
Dr. David Parker, director of the Christmas lighting ceremony concert, emphasized the unified joy the student body will experience at the lighting ceremony. “The lights and the singing have always been a time for the entire BJU family to sing together and usher in the gorgeous front campus Christmas lights,” he said. “You won’t want to miss it!”
This year, the lighting ceremony will be focused on honoring several BJU alumni who are overseas serving in the United States military and cannot be home for Christmas this year. The freshmen University Singers will also be singing, along with the sophomores that were in University Singers last year but could not sing at the ceremony because of COVID-19 restrictions.
In addition to the U-Singers, the Bob Jones Academy High School Choir will sing in front of Rodeheaver at 5:30 p.m. and the High School Choir from Southside Christian School will sing at 6 p.m. before the lighting ceremony.
Following the Christmas lighting ceremony, the student body will have the opportunity to pack boxes meant to spread the Gospel to children worldwide at Christmas time through the program Operation Christmas Child.
BJU students and faculty have been fundraising all semester for the means to fill and send as many boxes as possible, taking donations from faculty and students for funds and toys.
Karis Martin, a sophomore health science major and the BJU Community Service Council director for the Student Leadership Council, thinks this Operation Christmas Child ministry opportunity will be particularly special for the student body.
“What’s really exciting is that we get to raise the money and pack the boxes individually, and each of these boxes will impact individual lives,” she said. “This process goes beyond donating money or time. It is an opportunity to make a difference in an individual’s life through each box you invest in, and that’s very special.”
“I am really excited to see the University celebrate Christmas together as a family, being a sophomore and never having seen all the festivities due to COVID,” Martin said.
BJU has a longstanding tradition of hosting a Christmas Radio Broadcast to give the campus a taste of home before officially going home. Although no longer actually on the radio, the tradition has extended into the modern-day, now produced live in The Den before an audience.
David Lurtey, a BJU faculty member in the journalism and mass communication department and the organizer of the annual radio show, believes the broadcast is a way to encourage students near the end of the semester.
“I think it’s a neat way to get all of us on campus excited about the Christmas season,” he said. “Traditions are sentimental, and giving students holiday traditions really encourages them through finals and gets them excited about going home.”
Throughout the day there will be several other Christmas events including cookies and hot chocolate for students on the way to class, an ugly sweater competition, Christmas-themed food in the dining common, a Christmas-themed chapel and a campus-wide elf-on-the-shelf game.
Pam Cushman, the BJU events management director, considers the day to be one of service. “Traditions are unifying,” she said. “BJU might not be your home, but for four years it is your second home. We are motivated by serving the students. We want to give them a taste of home and a way to relax and enjoy themselves.”
“There’s not a lot we can do about the students’ hustle and bustle and their busy schedules and the pressures they carry and the decisions they’re making as God is molding them in these four years,” she said. “But this is something we can do.”
“A lot of the community will be here on Dec. 3, and we get to have fun with them and share with them what we are really celebrating and the hope that comes with Christmas,” she said. “We then spend the day serving together. Finally, it culminates [in] the music and the joy of Christmas.”