Blankets, beach towels, and pillows overran Main Street and Varsity Terrace. From the campanile to the MacKenzie Building, Pensacola Christian College students huddled together in groups, guarding their saved spot and chatting enthusiastically. Concession lines stretched across Second Street, filled with students waiting for hot caramel apple cider, pumpkin bread, peppermint cotton candy, and other special treats. An air of anticipation engulfed the scene.
Joy, Joy, Joy!
Anticipation turned to excitement as all lights across the campus turned off and the countdown began. The crowd screamed along as double digits quickly changed to single. “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one!” Red and green lights blazed to life as the Voices of PCC sang “Joy to the World.”
After the opening song, Davita Reynolds (So., NC) stepped forward. “Welcome to the 2023 Christmas Lights Celebration! We’re so happy to have you here with us tonight as we celebrate and enjoy the Christmas spirit here at PCC,” she greeted. “Tonight, you’re going to be hearing a lot of Christmastime specials and favorites from the Voices of PCC, a signature performing group I’m very thankful to be a part of. We’ll also be hearing some songs from the Symphonic Choir, Symphonic Band, and several of our talented friends here at PCC.” As emcee for the event, she enthusiastically introduced each piece, and audience members were encouraged to sing along to several well-known Christmas favorites. Each song reinforced this year’s central theme of “Joy.”
“It was a magical experience. I loved how the musical selections were so well-coordinated with the light show!”
Victoria Simmons (Early Childhood ’19), a kindergarten teacher at Pensacola Christian Academy, thoroughly enjoyed this year’s show. “This was my first time coming to Christmas Lights Celebration,” she admitted. “It was a magical experience. I loved how the musical selections were so well-coordinated with the light show!”
Freshman Lillie Davis (GA) also appreciated the light show. “I have a rare genetic eye condition called choroidal neovascularization,” she explained. “So basically, when people see the blinking lights, I see them pulsing twice as fast. So for me, the sparkly is just extra sparkly. It’s something I can actually see in full, living color—it’s really cool to come watch.”
The technical assistant for the show, Miss Kayla Quito, spent months programming each LED light used during Christmas Lights Celebration. This year, she programmed over 40,000 lights to produce a unique blend of colors and patterns for each piece. “It’s a bit like cooking,” Miss Quito said, speaking of her process. “I start with the raw ingredients (basic effects and primary colors), then try different things with them to create a finished product that looks like something totally different from what I started with.”
The staff, faculty, and students involved in Christmas Lights Celebration, from those on stage to those working behind the scenes, strive to keep Christ at the center. “I hope everyone sees the excitement our groups have to share this music,” said Dr. Jonathan McIntyre, who directs Voices of PCC. “We give God all the glory. We are celebrating Him, after all.”
Getting into the Christmas Spirit
Christmas Lights Celebration has always signaled the beginning of the semester’s end. The lights, hot chocolate, and chilly weather help those on campus get into the Christmas spirit. But Christmas isn’t just about material things.
“God gave His Son sacrificially, and we should give sacrificially too—especially during this season.”
Seminary graduate student Jacob Jung (Youth Ministries ’21) shared what the Christmas spirit meant to him. “To me, getting into the Christmas spirit also means being thankful for the birth of Christ,” he explained. “God gave His Son sacrificially, and we should give sacrificially too—especially during this season.”
Lillie agreed with Jacob and added her own perspective. “Christmas is so much more than the presents, the Bing Crosby songs, the sparkly lights,” she shared. “Getting into the Christmas spirit means realizing you’re in the presence of God. There’s something special about knowing Christ personally during the month that celebrates Him.”
Those interested in watching (or re-watching) this year’s Christmas Lights Celebration can view it on Watch PCC.