Christmas in Christ Chapel History

A tradition since 1973, Christmas in Christ Chapel is a time for the Gustavus Adolphus College community to celebrate the holidays with one another. Over 300 students, faculty, and staff bring the program to life each year through the use of music, dance, spoken word, and the visual arts. A new theme is chosen each year with choirs and orchestras performing live for over 5000 audience members. 

O Come All Ye Faithful has been the closing hymn since the beginning. The current version was commissioned for Gustavus in 1976.  In 1979 organizers closed with Handel's Hallelujah Chorus instead. The negative responses made it clear that a tradition was firmly in place.


Advent Vespers


 1973 Program


Lessons and Music in the Celebration of the Incarnation of Our Lord


1974 Program






1976 Program


Christmas in Christ Chapel


There is something Russian and Northern which we have placed at the liturgical center of the Christmas celebration this year, an echo of ancient relationships between the Russian and the Scandinavian people.  You will hear it in the chant, see it in the gesture and recognize its themes in the music of Rimsky-Korsakov.  Finally, you will sense it in the Eastern poet's embellishment on the Christmas Biblical texts - the Troparion and Kontakion.  From this center it spreads out in the music of many people.  

We pray you hear tonight, the "angels singing."  The theme of that singing is Jesus Christ, and the meaning of that singing concerns the worthfulness of your own existence, that is, the gift to live it as a child of God in this world. 
 1977 Program


Glory to God


Around the cross entwines the Christmas rose. Although it is a black cross - a cross of cruelty and bitterness, of so many accidents - it does not kill, but brings life. For on this night the Gospel of God begins to grow upon it. A plant from a distant land, but behold it blossoms in this wintry northern church! So we may love cursed earth, man's destiny, so bitter and vain. So we many love the Holy Child.

The Gloria Excelsis is the high hymn in the service of praise. To give glory to God and to beg His mercy are the two purposes which link man to God in this song of praise. It is because we know that God is Almighty that we beseech Him to have mercy on us. Luther said the Gloria "did not grow, nor was is made on earth, but it came down from heaven." The Gloria in Excelsis was most likely introduced into the Eucharistic service in the Western church in connection with the Christmas vigil. This is particularly appropriate because of the reference to the song of the angels at the time of our Lord's nativity.
 1978 Program


Hail the Day


1979 Program


Christmas Vespers


1980 Program




 1981 Program


Choral Vespers "A Service of Light"


1982 Program


"Unto Us… A Child"


"Unto Us...A Child" is the theme of Gustavus Adolphus College's eleventh celebration of Christmas in Christ Chapel. Because of the college's many Swedish ties and because one of the featured musical works this year is Swedish composer Hilding Rosenberg's major Christmas cantata, Den Heliga Natten, this program has been designed using traditional Swedish Christmas motifs. The paintings reproduced on the cover and within are examples of "Dalmalning," or Dala painting. These painting, common in the Dalarna and nearby provinces of Sweden in the early and middle 1800s, were generally executed directly on the walls of the homes and churches in the countryside by traveling artists. Biblical themes were frequently used, embellished with kirbitses, decorative floral patterns. The Dala paintings selected for the Christmas in Christ Chapel '83 program depict the Annunciation, Nativity, and visit of the Wise Men. Note the artists have painted their subjects dress of the day, a quaint folk style that serves to associate the events more directly with the everyday experiences of the rural folk who lived with these paintings.

 1983 Program


Soli Deo Gloria: Evening Music for the Birth of Our Lord; Celebrating the Anniversaries of Bach, Handel, and Schultz


Soli Deo Gloria - "To God alone the glory" - is the phrase Johann Sebastian Bach wrote at the end of many of his compositions. It is also a fitting thematic phrase for this year's Christmas music service at Gustavus Adolphus College, the twelfth such program held at the college. This year's celebration, in addition to singing the birth of Jesus, commemorates the births of Bach and two more of the world's great composers - George Frederic Handel, who like Bach was born in 1685, and Heinrich Schutz, who as born a century earlier. The music of these three composers dominate Christmas in Christ Chapel 1984 and gives a decidedly German "Abendmusik" flavor to the celebration. Complementing the texts of their music in this program are works by artists active in the 1600s and early 1700s and other images relating the composer to the so-call "Baroque" era in which they lived and worked.

 1984 Program


Service of Lessons and Carols


In 1985 at Christ Chapel we return to a Christmas service much loved here in the 1960s. The Service of Lessons and Carols was performed each year from the Chapel founding in 1961 until the retirement of Dr. Paul Allwardt, organist and choirmaster, in 1972. When our "Christmas in Christ Chapel" program was inaugurated in 1973, we moved away from that format.

Now it seems appropriate that we return to the Service of Lessons and Carols. One of the most beloved British traditions of Christmas, it is a uniquely collegiate service, allowing a college community which honors Word and music to celebrate its Lord's nativity. So, we a glance at the past, at this year's British Festival in Minnesota, and at the charm of this service from a sister college chapel in England, we decided to do it once again.
The beauty of this form of worship is in its flexibility and its musical dialogue based upon a special sequence of readings, prayers, and choral, instrumental, and congregational song, which is necessary to and makes up the One community that is the College. The readers are appointed after a definite order - at a college, for instance, from a campus urchin down to the president. This is the College at worship.  You may join in, too, as we sing the familiar hymns.
Peace. We love you.
Richard Q. Elvee, College Chaplain
 1985 Program


Russian service of Great Vespers

For the music at Christmas in Christ Chapel 1986, we consider the rich liturgical heritage of the Russian Orthodox Church. Our service is shaped by the liturgy of the Russian service of Great Vespers. The melodic richness, color, and strong emotional appeal of its many hymns and litanies are familiar to Minnesotans for several reasons: 1) in the 1920s F. Melius Christiansen recognized the value of the Russian a Capella style for use by the Midwestern college choirs, particularly the compositions of Gretchaninoff. The Christiansen tradition came to Gustavus under the directors of Philip Knautz and Karle Erickson. 2) the Service Book and Hymnal (1958) introduced the Eucharistic prayers and a litany that originated in the Eastern tradition which are continued in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978). 3) the Russian composers of the nationalistic period which we hear in this service have always been popular in Minnesota: Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rachmanioff, and Borodin.
This is a visual service.The movements of the choirs, the dancers, and the clergy through the church; the icons, the candles and the incense, the gospel book carried in solemn procession to the center of the nave, all suggest the ambience of Russian sacred space.
In January of 1987, the Gustavus Choir will travel in the Soviet Union. With them go our prayers for peace between our peoples. As we look over the news from the political summits, and reflect on the United States foreign policy, we feel deeply the need to encourage our leaders and to stir ourselves to weave the fabric of peace with the Russian people, and to give to that undertaking every energy of mind and heart. The light of Christmas judges the darkness and cynicism in which we seem content to live. The wonderful poetry and music of Christmas opens our eyes to the condemnation of much that seems so important to us, and is not ultimately important. Because the day-spring from on high has visited us, we move with quickened step across the miles of prejudice and ignorance, ancestral blindness and inertia, on a highway to a better world - a Bethlehem world. "God is with us! O ye nations understand."

Richard Q. Elvee, Chaplain to the College
 1986 Porgram


Celebrating the Old and New Worlds from Which We Have Come


The Autumn days advanced upon the Minnesota landscape early this year. Already in October the tree factories were out of work, and stood about like dull brick walls in the setting sun of a post-industrial city, all the windows empty. The land lay exhausted beneath "the base, the withered tree." "We walked the sodden pasture lane" to stalk the pheasant and the deer. November shortened our days, shrank the circle of the sun. Now in December, the darkest month, night comes shivering to supper. Even the lights of the village are small comfort. Lights are unimportant. They no longer seem to radiate. We long for the crystal lights of the deep winter sky. We long for something from the dark sea of infinity to approach us, to venture beyond our limits, to enter our finitude with a new revelation.

In the north countries, Norway, Sweden Denmark, Finland, and Minnesota, it begins with one small candle. A "living light" we call it. Such is the simple harbinger of the Northern Christmas - the Advent light! And it beings to light the way to Christmas.
 1987 Program


"The primordial light, that enlightens everyone, was coming into the world"


1988 Program


ChristMass For The Animals


We may say that Ecology is the science of the Body of God, theology the science of the Body of Christ, the arts the science of the Body of the Spirit; One Body through which we, the earth community, learn our sacred connectedness. The church is that public space that invites all earth's creatures to taste the sweetness of the Age of the Incarnation.

In any event, that is how we hear it. Listen for yourself with our blessing and prayers for you and your family, your whole family.
Richard Q. Elvee
 1989 Program


A Rose in Winter: The Life of Mary


1990 Program


Of the Father's Love Begotten


December 6 is the feast day of the great patron saint of colleges and the Christmas season, Saint Nicholas. He comes to our cathedral to be enthroned, as once he came to the ancient cathedral of Myra. He takes up the symbols of his office, and preaches to us a sermon on the Father's Love.

 Image486_xProgram 1991


Christmas in Christ Chapel


Welcome to the 20th presentation of Christmas in Christ Chapel. One of the unique features of our annual celebration of the birth of Christ is that is takes place in Christ Chapel and that worship is central to our coming together. This is no less true this year as we begin the service with the beautiful and moving Bidding Prayer used in the Service of Lessons and Carols performed annual at King's College in Cambridge, England. We shall "once again hear the message of the angels, and in heart and mind go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger." We shall join our voices with those in the choirs and become our own angelic chorus as we wing the carols of the faith.

This service consists of five sections which are delineated by the Scriptural texts. We begin with the birth of Jesus, who is the "glory of the Lord revealed to all flesh," and progress to the announcement of the angels and the musical variations on "Glory to God." Next, we contemplate Mary's role, especially as she ponders the angel's message to her and all that others have said about this child. A contemporary hymn brings her humanity to us in a most poignant way. Our drama moves from contemplation and wonder concerning the child to feeling the power of the man he grew to be - "King of Kings and Lore of Lord!" Finally, all moods give way to a breaking forth of the joy that is found through this event, a joy that knows no bounds and is for all eternity. It is the joy that may be ours in the midst of pain, defeat and death as well as in the days of health, peace, and prosperity.
We hope you will leave this place with a renewed sense of wonder at the gift of life and love and with peace in your heart.
The Revered Dennis J. Johnson
Vice President for Church Relations
 1992 Program


A German Christmas: A Celebration of the Nativity of our Lord with a Salute to Old and New Leipzig


The city of Leipzig was founded on an elevated plateau between three rivers in Saxony, central Germany, on the site of a settlement dating back to 4000 years before our time. The city derives its name from the fishing village which originated here: "Lipzi" (place under the linden trees). Over the centuries it became of the the great trade and cultural cities of the world. Here the King's road and the Imperial road crossed. Here trade fairs were organized, medieval churches were built, guilds of craftsmen formed - cloth-maters, tailors, tanners. In 1409 Leipzig University was founded. At first it educated mainly lawyers and theologians but then increasingly in the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment periods , it became a great humanistic institution repeatedly attracting important lecturers and students.Leipzig has always attracted great composers and musicians. Of course, it is Johann Sebastian Bach who comes to mind first. The numerous publishing houses and the university created ideal conditions for making Leipzig a literary and cultural center.On the night of December 4, 1943, Leipzig was bombed by the Allied forces. The valuable historical buildings were not spared. One-fifth of the city was completely destroyed. Between 30,000 and 40,000 Leipzig citizens died during the attacks.

Since the ware, the desolate state of the city, the continual demolition instead of restoration of entire areas of the city until the beginning of the 1990s, the removal of complete villages and areas of the countryside to make way for open-cast lignite mining and the helplessness of the population against ignorance and the high-handed politics of the lies on the part of the government are some of the hundreds of reasons for the Leipzig demonstrations on October 9, 1989. These and subsequent demonstrations gave important impetus to the peaceful revolution that changed the heart of new Leipzig.
 1993 Program


Old and New Spain: Prepare for an Age of Abundance


The celebration of the seasons of Advent and Christmas is surrounded in every culture by tradition, custom, and familial celebration. The Mexican-Americans bring a richness of faith and celebration to these seasons. The month of December is filled with festivities that draw families into the mystery of the Incarnation.

The first part of December is dedicated to the celebration of the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe. The appearance of the Virgin Mary to Juan Diego, a native Mexican, is a central part of the devotion of the Mexican people. 
From December 16-24, the community gathers for song, prayer, celebration, and a procession named "Posadas," a remembrance of the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The word posada - "lodging" in Spanish - recalls Mary and Joseph's desperate search for a place to stay. Images of Mary and Joseph are carried in procession to the homes in the village. At the doors the pilgrims sing a song asking for lodging and the hosts refuse to provide it until they recognize the great gift being offered them. The pilgrims are allowed to enter and Christmas begins!
The story of Mary and Joseph on the road searching for home, happiness, and warmth has a special meaning to many of the newest members of our communities, who feel the absence of family, welcome, and comfort in this sometimes rather unfriendly place. The struggle celebrated is the struggle of all people to find welcome and an affirmation of the holiness of every family. We wish you and your family every blessing of the season, praying this service may be one of them.
Dedicated to our Lady of Guadalupe, exsecutus sum meum votem
Chaplain Richard Q. Elvee
 1994 Program


The Tree of Life


1995 Program


Child of Light


1996 Program


Portals of Prophecy and Promise

 1997 Program


The Holy Family

Tonight our journey begins with the dreaming Joseph as he reflects on his ambivalent decision to become Mary's husband. We dream with prophetic texts and are sobered by the reminder of the future of the Christ child. Next we meet Mary as she encounters the angel and Elizabeth. A silent and poignant birthing ends with the holy family fleeing as refugees to Egypt because of Herod's slaughtering of the innocents. We finally return as extended family to the temple for a blessing by Simeon and a sermon from Anna.
We sing for the first time a new setting of the hymn "Awake, Awake, and Greet the New Morn," for choirs and congregation, brass, orchestra, and organ composed by Robert Buckley Farlee.
We hope that, as we rehearse this old story, you leave Christ Chapel blessed in your families and share with them a new sense of wonder at this birth - this gift of life. This is how our troubled souls are answered by God, write Mechthild of Magdeburgh (translation by Davies): It is my nature that makes me love you often, for I am love itself. It is my longing that makes me love you intensely, for I yearn to be loved from the heart. It is my eternity that makes me love you long, for I have not end.
Chaplain Brian T. Johnson
 1998 Program


Even So, Come, Lord Jesus: Scenes From The Revelation


A sense of immediacy, of urgency, of eager expectation, throbs in the texts of this service. They are impetuous, insistent, athrill with impending revelations and unguessed disclosures. They move swiftly, like a herald approaching, bringing tidings of incredible happenings about to transpire. One feels the stir of new impulses, of nameless prophecies, as of a Divine Order brooding over the life of our time, trying to break it up. The City of God is descending to those ready to receive it. As we gather in these final weeks of the millennium, let us remember the words of the refrain of the Revelation oracle: "Hear, you who have ears to hear, what the Spirit says to the churches."

No other biblical book can be compared to the Revelation of Jesus Christ in terms of its history of influence. In the ancient and medieval church its significance far exceeded that of the Pauline letters, or even that of Matthew's Gospel. With its rich visual language it provided the intellectual material on which Christian piety fed. St. Augustine, who speaks to this chapel from Paul Granlund's east door, is our instructor. He said that John's Revelation should not be interpreted literally or as future-telling, but as an allegory of the everyday struggle between good and evil, the church and world, the city of God and the city of Man.
In farewell, I wish to dedicated this program to my colleagues in the Chaplain's Office and the music and dance departments at this College. You have been superb as artists and directors. To the genius of Kelvin Miller and the competence of the Office of Public Affairs, I raise my Erasmus Cap. To my father, Richard Elvee (1911-1968), and my mother Nelle Beacham, Sun City, Arizona, for teaching me the love of this book since I was a child. And finally to my fathers in this College: Edgar Carlson, Ren Anderson, Kyle Montague, and Millard Ahlstrom. It is not enough that I think of you often, you gentle men, who were not my kin but as dear to me; mentors who shared with me your love of learning and culture and Gustavus.
Richard Quentin Elvee
Chaplain to the College, 1962-2000 

Program 1999


Heaven and Nature Sing

Welcome to our celebration of the Lord's Nativity! This great festival of the Incarnation of the Word of God, brought near to us in texts and the arts each year at Christmas in Christ Chapel, is a renewal and a restoration of all the forces and powers of the universe: Christ is the instrument, the center, the end of all animate and material creation. Through this divine Logos, all things are created, sanctified, and made alive. This is the constant and customary teaching of St. John and St. Paul, the teaching conveyed by the most solemn chants of liturgy. Though we repeat these chants across generations, we recognize that we can neither master nor measure their mysterious and profound significance. Yet as we come to embody their power, we realize that the Creator is by nature always in the act of creating. It is Christ who is reaching fulfillment in the creation. The Word becomes flesh and dwells in us.
At the very same time, the continual falling of humanity breaks this genesis of creation - our hearts simply refuse to find Christ room. We close our doors to the coming of the Word. We break covenants and promises. We often join the choirs of heavenly angels and their songs but refuse to listen to the song of the natural world. As a result of this refusal, both the creation and the Creator suffer.
Whether we can be enlisted through the power of the Spirit to join in sustaining purposes that lead toward hope, life, love, and a shared future is the lingering question at this critical time. As the techno sphere attracts the biosphere, as the paths of the world's poor and rich diverge, and the families and communities weaken at home and around the globe, we face a desperate future.
This is the landscape that we will journey over and sing through this evening. Following the form of a four-movement symphony, the program will call us back to quiet places to hear the Song and the Singer more clearly. The primal elements of earth, fire, air, and water remind us of some of the environments around us - rain, forest, desert, prairie, and sea. Lullabies will be sung for the Christ child and for his earthly home. Dances will speak of our common humanity. Prayers will be offered from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. This program is, appropriately we hope, not destined for the landfill. We invite you to open the doors of the Advent calendar cover a day at a time to find the texts and hymns about heaven and nature in preparation for Christ's birth. We urge you to send a greeting on one of the postcards to extend our time together far beyond Christ Chapel. And, most importantly, we hope that you will reuse and recycle our theme again and again among your family and friends - where change of heart always begins.
Abiding peace and joy as we await Christ's birth,
Chaplain Brian T. Johnson
 2000 Program


A Celtic Pilgrimage

Welcome to Gustavus as our community joins in pilgrimage and prayer to celebrate the Lord's Nativity! Each year in this prairie cathedral we combine our voices to the song of the Church, a song which resounds from every time and every place. In preparing for Christmas in Christ Chapel, faculty and chapel staff listen for new or distinct voices, or ones that may have been forgotten or overlooked, so that we might discover a fresh, audible Word that comes to meet us with a touch of grace. We trust that the voices across the ages bring our community of faith to new places as we celebrate Christ's birth in the depths of our hearts.
This year we call upon the Celtic way of prayer to assist in the journey. Much of what we know of this history was recorded in island monasteries when Christians and Celts first encountered each other in the 5th century. We join a long and ancient procession of respect and awe as we meet a rich tradition that seeks to embrace both the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of redemption with particular clarity, strength, and gentleness. Prayer in the Celtic tradition is prayer in rhythm - marked by sound and silence, by intimacy and transcendence, and by Trinity-centered theology that used expansive metaphor and imagination.
This night, we will listen to some of the saints who first encountered the tapestry of Celtic tradition. We'll listen to texts collected and translated by Alexander Carmichael. Esther de Waal's writings will be a guide while Seamus Heaney's poetry will provide a contemporary counterpoint. We'll sing with the community from Iona, a living Celtic place of pilgrimage in Scotland. We will be wrapped in Celtic musical threads that have been exchanged and woven throughout the British Isles. And we'll walk with students and their directors who bring the whole of themselves to lead our common prayer. We love you, brothers and sisters.
Peace to Christ, the eternal Word made flesh. Peace during these Advent Days,
Chaplain Brian Johnson
 2001 Program


Julbon Christmas Prayer

Brothers and sisters, as we samlas vid krubban (gather around the crib) to prepare for the Lord's Nativity, welcome to a liturgy of sight and song, of memory and movement, of Word and worship. In a starlit, sacred space, this Christmas in Christ Chapel liturgy joins the revelations of saints and Holy Scripture with naverlur and nyckelharpa musicians, folk and modern dancers, hymns and carols of Advent and Christmas season in Sweden.
Drawing on recently published materials from the Church of Sweden, the College's exchange programs with Uppsala University, a recent visit from renowned Swedish poet Ylva Eggehorn as our Out of Scandinavia writer-in-residence, and a rich history of relationship and connection with Sweden, this 30th anniversary year of Christmas in Christ Chapel celebrates a continuing legacy.
Advent prayers for the coming of God's living Light,
Chaplain Brian T. Johnson

Program 2002


Some Children See Him

As we festively gather among the pine boughs and shining ornaments, welcome to Christmas in Christ Chapel celebrating our Lord's Nativity! This year we are linked with King's College, Cambridge, which has celebrated for 85 years the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve. "Wherever the service is heard and however it is adapted, the pattern and strength of the service," as Dean Eric Milner-White pointed out, "is derived from the lessons. The main theme is the development of the loving purposes of God" seen "through the windows and words of the Bible." Local interests appear in our bidding prayer, and personal circumstances open the heart to different parts of the liturgy. The center of the service is still found by those who go in heart and mind and who consent to follow where the story leads.
From the founding of Christ Chapel in 1961 through 1972, Lessons and Carols was the common order of liturgy at Gustavus for thousands of pilgrims traveling on the Advent journey. Since the lessons are proclaimed by members of our collegiate community, the history of salvation finds an incarnation in those who contribute to a common life on the hill. This year, the music calls listeners to global concerns and perspectives. To be able to witness to diverse ways of understanding is captured in a 1951 poem by Wilha Huson, Some Children See Him
We remember these days our brother, Paul Granlund (1925-2003), internationally known bronze sculptor and longtime sculptor-in-residence at Gustavus whose work surrounds Christ Chapel. We miss Paul.
Grateful for the countless hours of work on this liturgy by students, staff, and faculty, I pray that in "Some Children See Him" you find a sense of the universal relationship we have with each other and with all of God's creation and therein make room for the love that is born during this Holy Season.
Chaplain Brian T. Johnson
 2003 Program


Seasons of Promise

As the Gustavus collegiate community gathers to listen to and participate in the feast of Christ's birth, you will discover in this year's celebration that the Nativity is embedded in a greater cycle of time (temprale): Seasons of Promise.
The feast of the Nativity always stands in juxtaposition to what precedes and what follows - the feast never stands alone. It is the fasting of Advent that leads to the feast of the Nativity that leads to the feasting of Epiphany. This enduring rhythm parallels and describes that which is known about our lives: times of want, need, and emptiness, followed by the wonder and surprise of grace and gift, followed by remembering, commemorating, and celebrating.
Just as a liturgy gives shape to a common life, so do the cycles of the Church year give shape to a shared understanding of time lived before God and with each other.
The Church has often depicted this movement and connection between seasons of promise in painting, sculpture, and other arts. This year we give thanks for the artistry of Dr. He Qi, professor at Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, Nanjing, People's Republic of China, who has given us permission to enlarge his seasonal depictions for Christ Chapel and duplicate them as a miniature icon. Heartfelt thanks are also extended to the time and energy of students, directors, faculty, and staff of Gustavus who have prepared this liturgy.
May the promise inherent in a relationship with God be born in you anew in this time of prayer and praise.
Brian T. Johnson, Chaplain
Program 2004


Ageless Visions of a Timeless Moment

Blessings during this time of waiting and preparing, a time of holding two different Advent practices together, yet embracing a richness and depth that only is known in their pairing. Such is the paradox of this year's Christmas in Christ Chapel. Even though the moment of Jesus' birth occurred in history, it also represented an encounter between eternity and time itself. Likewise, as musicians, visual artists, and writers attempted to capture something of the truth of this timeless moment by their unique visions, that which has been heard and known transcends a particular age. The pieces of art found herein speak across the ages and become part of the ongoing record of being present at the birth of our Savior.
This year's liturgy walks through the ages as we rehearse what our forebears have told us. But in our encounter with these ageless visions, we come to know the new creation and well: a fresh translation by of sixth-century hymns by Gustavus graduate Matthew Haugen '04, premiere of a hymn arrangement by Robert Buckley Farlee, and the installation, Gloria in Excelsis, by textile artist Patricia Freiert, emerita professor of classics at Gustavus.
Welcome, as you join this teaching procession of narrative, visual art, and music, as we again arrive at the birth of Christ, a place with which we are familiar and yet will experience anew.
For the gifts of our student musicians, artists, and your presence, I give thanks.
Brian T. Johnson, Chaplain
 2005 Program


 An American Odyssey
Welcome to Christmas in Christ Chapel 2006. We are pleased that you have come to join as our collegiate community celebrates the Nativity of our Lord.
"An American Odyssey" brings together poetic memory and musical history in text and melody, movement and prayer, creativity and incarnation. Stitched together by the reach of grace offered to humanity in the birth of Christ, this year's geographic patchwork explores how the Word of God has been imagined and interpreted through a "North American lens." To examine this material is to discover complex and conflicted narratives of encounter, challenge, and change, and at the same time to uncover the rich, varied, and diverse contributions peoples and cultures have made to the fabric of the Church.
Liturgy lives in patterns, and as time passes, layers of meaning and value combine to form rich tapestries of identity. This year, the image of a patterned quilt becomes a way to think about how artistic ingenuity and creativity, born of human hands, are nurtured by the presences of the Holy Spirit. I am particularly appreciative of the collaboration with the Minnesota Historical Society that resulted in their loan of the "Star of Bethlehem" quilt (ca. 1840), on display in the Presidents Reception Room, as well as numerous photographs and quilt images in the printed program. Gratitude is also extended to living composers and poets William Beckstrand, Robert Buckley Farlee, Marty Haugen, Stephen Paulus, Carl Shalk, and Jaroslav Vajda for their contributions to this year's worship service.
American artists' contributions to our faith traditions are manifest on campus in other ways as well. I would like to draw your attention to two recent commissions for Christ Chapel - a ceramic installation by art professor Lois Peterson and student David Goldstein '08 titled A Space for Listening (on the facing of the chapel balcony) and William S. Bukowski's Community of Believers. These artists raise up the continuing need for congregations and institutions to nurture art for faith's sake.
Finally, "An American Odyssey" is an Advent gift offered to the wider community because of the committed work of students, faculty, and staff at Gustavus. To them, I offer my deepest thanks.
May this season of anticipation bring you warmth and hope.
Chaplain Brian T. Johnson
 2006 Program


The Word Becomes Flesh

For 35 years, Christmas in Christ Chapel has been a place of pilgrimage and worship during the Advent season. On these introductory pages, in the College library, and in the Jackson Campus Center you will find images from some of our previous liturgies. These emblems are lasting reminders of the rich themes that have broadened and deepened understandings of the Nativity of our Lord. This year, we think and feel with poets who have lived within the biblical texts and, through encounter and response, have offered seekers imaginative acts of attention. Our writers give us personal interventions, mediations, and creative inquiries, and bequeath to us experiences of the inheritance of faith, the gift of belief bestowed across time and space.
To pray together in this prairie chapel, to join our voices with angels and archangels and the whole heavenly host, and to rekindle the heart of believing - these are the Advent gifts of Christmas in Christ Chapel. My heartfelt gratitude is extended to all who join our collegiate community for these brief moments that remain visible for days to come. I offer my deepest thanks for the committed work of students, faculty, and staff at Gustavus.
Truly, the Word becomes flesh and dwells in, with, under, and all 'round each of us.
Chaplain Brian T. Johnson
 2007 Program


Joyeux Noel

At first glance, rising before the worshiping community in Christ Chapel, is an icon of Mary and Jesus painted for the community of Taizé in France. This icon, a window of light into the birth of God, connects us to the aesthetic charism of the French church, whose artistry, music, and texts shape this year's liturgy and serve to deepen the mystery of the Nativity. In France we encounter the legacy of organists and composers like Olivier Messiaen, whose 100th birth anniversary is celebrated this year. It was his experience of stained glass windows that helped him to imagine the colors of music, and his inspiration draws us in the printed program to images from the great cathedrals of France. Saints like Bernard, Therese, and Teilhard complement the Biblical texts of prophecy and birth. Robert Bukley Farlee has arranged a new setting of the French carol "People Look East," joining French composers like Poulenc, Durufle, and Honegger. Our Advent liturgy concludes with a chant from Taizé, introduced in French but sung in multiple languages, the Pentecost expression of living as a parable of community, the voices of the church joining the voices of the ages.
We give thanks to all of you, especially to our students, for contributions of time, expertise, and commitment so that this gathered assembly is able to celebrate once again the coming of the birth of Christ.
In Advent anticipation,
Chaplain Brian Johnson 
 2008 Program


A Liturgy of Letters and Carols

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Neighboring fields have been turned under for a long winter's nap. Only the most resilient leaves remain on the oaks outside of Old Main, refusing to let go. The light fades earlier each day. The surprisingly late, warm days now recede as a growing chill sets in. In these ending days, we wait expectantly.
By the time you open this letter, you'll have arrived at Gustavus for this year's Christmas in Christ Chapel: A Liturgy of Letters and Carols. Drawing on the long venerated Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols tradition from King's College, Cambridge, this shape provides a form for this year's service. You'll recognize the familiar pattern of dialogue between texts and music. A kind of sacred conversation develops as the liturgy unfolds, an encounter and exchange that mirrors the sacred conversation formed by the incarnation of the Word becoming flesh among us. We witness the narrative drama, reflect on the profound revelation of the divine human dance of grace, and wrestle with implications that continue beyond the birth, to the death, and to the resurrection.
The music this year takes notice of anniversaries of composers Handel and Mendelssohn and includes a wide cross-selection of familiar and recently composed pieces for choirs, orchestra, bells, dance, and organ. A hymn composed by church musician Paul Manz and writer Jaroslav Vajda and orchestrated by our cantor, Chad Fothergill, is being offered to remember and celebrate Paul's recent death.
The texts are letters, ancient and modern, from Holy Scriptures and from the pens of saints, writers, and mystics. Often an intimate and revealing form of communicating, letters help us to remember, to witness, and to transform our common life with each other and with God among us.
Like being nestled in a tree with cards and tinsel dangling all around, we wait as the liturgy wakens within us the recognition of our deepest fears, our greatest hopes, and our strongest loves. And we find ourselves in this jeweled, prairie cathedral hearing across the ages that Jesus is born, in us.
So I am glad that you are here. It is an important thing to be together, to pray, to sing, to remember. This collegiate community sends its own blessings to you as your prepare to welcome the child.
With love,
Chaplain Brian Johnson
 2009 Program


A Renaissance Nativity

The birth of Jesus has inspired a flowering in countless cultures of creativity as artists, musicians, poets, and dancers have interpreted its meaning. It is appropriate, then, that Renaissance (Italian: “Rinascimento,” from ri-“again” and nascere “be born”) as a cultural movement and as a metaphor has been chosen as this year’s theme.
The suspended frescoes in Christ Chapel invite us into Giotto’s masterpiece from the interior of the Arena Chapel, painted in 1305 for the Scrovegni family in Padua, Italy. Giotto’s ability to model form with intense color and shading became a pedagogical tool establishing a rebirth in artistic expression for generations. The fresco near the font (also Giotto’s work) reminds us of both the contribution of St. Francis for creating the first crèche, a tableau representing the birth of Jesus, in the church at Greccio, and for the foundational contributions of the monastic traditions in nurturing creativity and imagination. As Giotto once said, “Every painting is a voyage into a sacred harbour.”
Creativity in our Christmas in Christ Chapel liturgy spans hundreds of years, as the fresco on the cover of the bulletin reminds us of Paul Granlund’s “Dancing Francis” (St.  Francis, 1989), a modern interpretation of “Brother Sun and Sister Moon,” or William Beckstrand’s composition Prayer of St. Francis (2003) bears him in our day. We join our voices with the choirs and instrumentalists as they bring alive texts that draw us first to Italy and then around the world as the Renaissance continued to spread.
Three of our spoken texts come from Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), from English writer John Donne (1572–1631), and from Soviet-Russian-American Joseph Brodsky (1940–1996; Nobel Prize in Literature, 1987). They remind us that Biblical texts are pregnant with pauses that carry their own “children to birth,” too.  
We pray that this year’s A Renaissance Nativity —the music, dance, and our voices—join together to bring Jesus’ birth among us. It is with deep gratitude to all who offer their talents to create the gift of Christmas in Christ Chapel that we dedicate this program to one of our retiring faculty in the music department, our director of the Choir of Christ Chapel, Dr. Patricia Kazarow.
Peace during these Advent days,
Chaplain Brian T. Johnson    
 2010 Program


Julljus: Light from the Old World, Light to the New

As the earth tilts away from the sun and toward the time of the winter solstice, we in the northern hemisphere find ourselves descending into darkness and longing for light. We are not the first to yearn for the light. We celebrate the faithful seekers who kindled the flame and carried the light, often through great adversity. Their voices sound from medieval times into this new millennium. Ansgar and Birgitta, Petri and Norelius, Carlson and Yang tell stories of being drawn to the light.
We move from medieval monastery to sixteenth century cathedral to prairie church to this prairie cathedral, Christ Chapel. We pause a good while to evoke worship in a white frame church on the Minnesota prairie.
Light beckons the faithful across the snow-covered fields to Julotta. At five o’clock on Christmas morning candles light up the little church. The scent of juniper boughs fills the air. The good news of Christ’s birth is proclaimed in quiet joy.
Our pilgrimage brings us to Christ Chapel, this jeweled prairie cathedral built during the College’s Centennial when the vision of the College expanded to welcome students and staff from many cultures. Dr. Edgar M. Carlson, president during the Centennial year, said, “God is at work in the world far beyond the bounds of the church in ministering to human need. When we enter that world . . . we will be close to God who loved us and said we ought to love one another.” 
The Light of Christ still beckons us toward hope, peace, and wisdom. This Light gathers us, centers us, and sends us out to love our neighbor. This Light cannot be hidden. Like the aurora borealis, it radiates through the stained glass panels and clear glass windows of this chapel.
May the flame of Julljus —the flame of Christmas light—be kindled anew in you. May you ponder how you can carry a light from this place, how you will be “light for others.”
Words near the votive candelabra in the Cathedral in Uppsala, Sweden, also grace the Christ Chapel candelabra:  Ljus för Andra Lägg en gåva och tand ett ljus. Bed en kort bön, om du kan, för någon du håller av, eller någon som behöver se Guds ljus i sitt liv.
Make a gift and light a candle. Pray a short prayer, if you can, for someone you love, or someone who needs to see God’s light in their life.
God Jul!
Rachel S. Larson,
 2011 Porgram


Jubilee, Proclaiming the Year of the Lord's Favor

Come In, All Ye Faithful
Christ Chapel’s doors swing open to welcome all with the scent of fresh-cut Minnesota Christmas greens accented in golds, shining in this golden time for reflecting on 50 years of the Chapel’s ministry. On those doors at the east entrance, Paul Granlund sculptures capture President Edgar Carlson holding the model of Christ Chapel, gifted in 1962 to strengthen the presence of the Church in the College and the presence of the College in the Church. He said, “We need each other to be ourselves.”
The historic doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem likewise are swung wide open in Donald Jackson’s illumination of the Life of Paul in The Saint John’s Bible.
Paul, clothed in a Jewish prayer shawl, is also portrayed holding the Church together, in its brokenness, gifted to a world in need of a healing “Jubilee.”
Liturgical songs and prayers, scriptural readings, and illuminations from The Saint John’s Bible lead us into a biblical celebration of “Jubilee,” which represents more than just a “happy time” every half century. In the Old Testament’s Levitical writing, it’s also an expectation of shalom and a world made whole again! We celebrate God’s favor bestowed on Mary and then on all; a new peace is our promise, taking us into the world from a “Jubilee”—not an ending time, but a new beginning for peace-making, love, and goodwill. We go into God’s preferred future “proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor”!
May the Lord look upon you with favor and gift you and your household with Christmas peace through this Jubilee celebration in Christ Chapel.
Thank You for COMING to behold Him . . . and GOING to make the world whole.
Chaplain Rod Anderson
 2012 Program


Holy Wisdom, Holy Word: The Gate of Eden Are Open


The readings and music at this year’s Christmas in Christ Chapel services explore the meaning and impact of the incarnation from a variety of feminist theological perspectives. Over the past four decades, an increasing number of women have earned the PhD in biblical studies, Christian theology, and Christian history. Those who have entered the academy have made significant contributions to their fields and have lifted up stories, voices, and insights from a tradition that has long been undervalued or ignored.

The thread that runs through this year’s service is the Wisdom of God. In the book of Proverbs and other ancient texts, God’s Wisdom is often personified as feminine. In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, Sophia is the word for wisdom. In the English tradition, she is often referred to as Lady Wisdom, the one who was with God at the beginning of God’s creative work. Some feminist scholars have pointed out the parallels between the Wisdom of God and the Word of God in the Christian tradition, with Jesus as the incarnation of both God’s Wisdom and Word.
Feminist scholarship has also highlighted the mystical and theological work of women throughout Christian history. Woven throughout the music of this year’s service, the writings of five Christian women tell the story of the nature and meaning of Jesus’ birth. The poetic visions of Hildegard von Bingen, a Benedictine abbess and prolific writer from the medieval period in Germany, shape the arc of the liturgy and tie together the main thread of Lady Wisdom with the secondary theme of Paradise or Eden.
Feminist theologians studying the artwork inside the earliest remaining Christian churches have discovered that people walking into those churches would have immediately sensed that they were in God’s garden on Earth. All who joined in the church’s rituals and ethical practices would have understood themselves as experiencing paradise, believing that through the incarnation of God’s Wisdom and Word, Jesus had re-opened the gates to Eden that had been closed since the fall of humanity.
We invite you to experience the beauty of paradise and find life in response to the call of God’s Wisdom and Word.
Chaplain Siri C. Erickson
 2013 Program


Tender Rose, Starry Night


The Nativity of Jesus has always been a cosmic story, not just a human one. The theme for this year’s services was inspired by another signature event of the College, the Nobel Conference. This October, Gustavus hosted its 50th Nobel Conference, centered around the question, “Where does science go from here?” Because of its longstanding commitment to the interconnectedness of faith and learning, the Nobel Conference has often also included a theologian, ethicist, or philosopher who explores the implications of scientific research for people asking questions of faith and meaning.

This year during Christmas in Christ Chapel, we will ponder the cosmic significance of Jesus’s humble birth in light of scientific discoveries about the vastness and magnificence of the universe. God’s relationship with the created world has been affirmed throughout the sacred writings of Judaism and Christianity. The earliest biblical writers speculated about God’s role in the creation of life on earth. In each era of scientific advance, people of faith have wondered anew about God’s activity in the material universe.
Since the first century of the Common Era, Christians have made cosmic claims about Jesus: that in him the Word of God, present with God in the creation of the universe, became incarnate in a material body. And, that through his life, death, and resurrection, God is at work redeeming the whole creation.
Today we understand that Jesus’s flesh, like all human bodies, was made up of stardust, that human beings share 99 percent of the same DNA as chimpanzees, that human life is deeply dependent upon the well-being of the earth, and that our universe is much grander and expansive than previous generations could have imagined. These scientific discoveries encourage us to expand our vision of God and to reflect on the significance of Jesus’s birth from a much larger vantage point. 
In this meaning-making we have able guides. As you encounter the work of some of Christianity’s most creative theologians, mystics, poets, dancers, and musicians, we invite you to prepare your hearts and minds to celebrate another Christmas, inspired anew by this amazing, unfolding cosmic story of birth and life.
Chaplain Siri C. Erickson
 2014 Program


Shalom, Salaam Bethlehem

Every year, thousands of people from around the world make the pilgrimage to the city of Bethlehem, in Palestine, to celebrate Christmas. Processions, lights, and music fill Manger Square, the streets, and the churches. This year, Christmas in Christ Chapel will take you on a journey, joining global travelers and the residents of Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace and give voice to our shared hope for shalom, salaam—peace in this world.
God’s desire for people to pursue and experience shalom is a theme that runs throughout the biblical story. The word shalom occurs over two hundred times and is in almost every book of the Hebrew Bible. It is often translated as peace, but shalom is not just the absence of violence and war. Shalom is a broad value that includes the promotion of spiritual and relational well-being, social justice and salvation, health and good fortune, and being right with God and with the community. To pray for shalom is to participate in God’s movement toward peace and wholeness in the world. 
Salaam is the Arabic term for peace, and like shalom, it carries the broader meaning of restoring relationships and creating holistic conditions for human flourishing. Christians living in Bethlehem speak Arabic and thus long for and speak of salaam in worship, prayer, and everyday life. For these Palestinian Christians, the celebration of Jesus’ birth is an opportunity to proclaim that Christ came into the world to address the hostilities among people through initiating a movement of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
May all of us respond to God’s call to be people of compassion and peacemaking in our own communities this Christmas season.
Shalom, Salaam, Peace,
Siri C. Erickson
Chaplain, Gustavus Adolphus College
 2015 Program

Ubuntu, Jesu: From the Cradle of Humankind to the Ends of the Earth

Community is what often defines identity in various locations across the African continent. For some, this is called “Ubuntu,” or as John S. Mbiti stated, “I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am.” In striking contrast to our common manifestations of western individualism, Ubuntu conveys that “a person is a person through other persons.” As Bénézet Bujo recognizes, “a person only remains healthy in a holistic sense by living in harmony with the whole creation,” thus “to be human is to affirm one’s humanity by recognizing the humanity of others and, on that basis, establish humane relations with them.”

While popularized by Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela during the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, the concept of Ubuntu has numerous variations in a wide range of African linguistic expressions, such as gimuntu in kiKongo and giKwese (Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola), umuntu in xiTsonga and shiTswa (Mozambique), bumuntu in kiSukuma and kiHaya (Tanzania), umundu in Kikuyu and umuntu in Kimeru (Kenya), and bomoto from Bobangi (Democratic Republic of Congo). In recent years, feminist scholars such as Puleng LenkaBulu and peace activists like Timothy Murithi have taken Ubuntu in provocative and profound directions. Today the Gustavus Adolphus community contributes to this important conversation.

The Ubuntu relationship of individual and community can be bserved in the baobab tree, which is featured on the cover of this program and expressed artistically and prominently in our scenic design. The baobab tree is considered sacred across the African continent, as it is tall, majestic, strong, and imposing; much like the spirit that holds the human community together in all its diversity, reminding us of our common ancestry and collective trajectory. At a time of great division and painful isolation in 2016, both locally and globally, we gather under the inspiring and reconciling baobab to celebrate Christmas in Christ Chapel, under our theme “Ubuntu, Jesu: From the Cradle of Humankind to the Ends of the Earth.”

To proclaim “Ubuntu, Jesu” is to boldly connect the incarnation event of Jesus with the totality of life in its fullness for all that exists. The “Cradle of Humankind,” therefore, has a double meaning. First, it is the physical location of Africa as the birthplace of humanity, and second, it is the manger of Jesus, the Son of God. Therefore, “Ubuntu, Jesu” communicates our shared origins and dignified character, “From the Cradle of Humankind to the Ends of the Earth.”


This weekend each worship service begins with artistic choices grounded in the African continent, and through music, dance, and the spoken word, subsequently migrates to expressions from around the world. In doing so we follow four topical sections: Creation, Alienation, Incarnation, and Proclamation. Not only does this sacred progression seek to illustrate the theme of Ubuntu, but it also mirrors the arc of Scripture, echoes a historical Lutheran worship presentation, and honors the Christian liturgical calendar while affirming the relational Trinitarian formula. In making such connections, we take notice of our common creation, temptation for alienation, celebration of incarnation, and call to proclamation, in the hope that we might receive the spirit to embody Ubuntu throughout advent, Christmas, and beyond.
Like the roots, branches, leaves, and fruits of the baobab tree, we as human beings are interconnected with all things in all places and at all times. In the words of former Gustavus President Edgar Carlson, “We need each other to become ourselves.” As we celebrate the birth of Jesus through the lens of Ubuntu and under the sacred baobab, may we recognize our roots and reform our reach, for the sake of all that exists.
May God continue to bless you, with peace and all things good, today and always.
Rev. Brian Konkol, PhD, Chaplain of the College and Creative Director, Christmas in Christ Chapel
Paschal Kyoore, PhD, Professor of French and Director, African Studies