Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that to mark the festive season, the Naval Officers Wives Association under the leadership of Mrs. Theresa Ibas, recently held a festival of Christmas Carols and Nine Lesson The Naval Officers’ Wives Association (NOWA) might not be dressed in the white uniform of the Nigerian Navy (NN) personnel, but they are every bit as important as their men, because they are the engine room that drives the service. From a small tea group that began in 1965, these women have become stronger and much more formidable as 52 years later, they have grown to become pillars of their communities through various empowerment schemes and outreach to the naval widows.
While traditions are sacrosanct for the military, the same holds true for their wives’ associations. Thus, in keeping faith with its annual tradition, NOWA recently organised a festival of Christmas Carols and Nine Lessons. Themed ‘O Little Child of Bethlehem’ the carol was held at the Admiralty Conference Center, Naval Dockyard, Victoria Island, Lagos and invited guests were thrilled by the harmonic Xmas renditions presented by NOWA Primary and Secondary School Choir, NNSS Steel Band, NARAWA Choir, Navy Band, and The Voices Choir.
Hosted by NOWA National President, Barrister Mrs. Theresa Ibas, the event started with praise and worship session by the NOWA Choir and then the processional hymn of the First Noel. Then the National Anthem before the opening prayer was said. This led to the invitatory carol by the choir. Afterwards, the NOWA anthem was sung, followed by the opening remarks by the NOWA national president.
Down the line, the first lesson was take from Genesis 3:1-9, which was about the fall of man. This was followed by a congregational hymn on ‘O little two of Bethlehem’. Then the second lesson was read from Genesis 22:12-24 on God’s promise to Abraham.
To spice up the occasion, carols were sung by NOWA Primary and Secondary School and then the third lesson was taken from Isaiah 9:2-7 about the prophecy of the Prince of Peace. This was closely followed by the congregational hymn ‘Joy to the world’ before the fourth lesson on Annunciation taken from Isaiah 40:1-5, after which the NNSS Steel Band and NARAWA Choir sang.
The fifth lesson was on Assurance given to Joseph in Luke 1:28-33 and a carol ‘O Holy Night’ by the church choir was sung. Then the sixth lesson on the Birth of Jesus was taken from Luke 2:1-7 before the carol by navy band and The Voices were taken.
This led to the seventh lesson on the Shepherds visit taken from Luke 2:8-20. Another congregational hymn ‘While shepherd watched their flocks’ was sung and then the eight lesson of The Adoration of the Magi was taken from Mathew 2:1-12 before the candle light procession was done with “O come all ye faithful’ singing in the background.
Carols were taken by the NOWA choir and the church choir thus preceding the ninth lesson taken from John 1:1-5, 14 and then exhortation and intercession. The special guest of honour took the stage, followed by cutting of the cake with a hallelujah chorus and then closing prayer and benediction that ended the carol service.
Officiating ministers were Director, Naval Chaplain Services (Protestants) and Chief Chaplain, NN, Rev. Cdr BME Ajayi; acting Director Religious Affairs, Very Rev Fr Cdr RE Oparaji; Rev Cdr. H Musa and Slt Rev Fr AI Onojah.
In his speech, the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, said, “The occasion was indeed special as we appreciate the mercy of Almighty God for granting us the unique gift of witnessing yet another carol night. This Yuletide presents a unique season that reminds us once again of the peace and blessings of giving and sharing the unmerited mercy favor of God.”
Ibas added that the Christmas carol night is a song fiesta which defines the gaiety of the season and spirit of Christmas.
“It provides an opportunity for the Christian faithfuls to sing carols song and create the perfect celebratory atmosphere to kick start the series of activities making the birth of Jesus Christ.”
He said that the NOWA annual Christmas carols “therefore epitomises our expression of gratitude for the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ and serves as a strong reminder that we are part of God’s orchestrated plan for the salvation of mankind”.
While commending the association for their support and holding the home front, he reiterated the unshakeable commitment of the NN to support the activities of NOWA.
In her remarks, NOWA President said regardless of the situation one faces in life, this season urges all to keep faith and believe in brighter tomorrow.
She said: “We must have experienced different situation which combined to make us better and strong as individuals’ families and as an organisation. It is our strong belief that things can get better as we move with renewed optimism into the New Year.
“The theme of our celebration ‘O Little Child of Bethlehem’ is symbolic of hope we should have irrespective of the situation we find ourselves.
“Bethlehem was a town believed to have nothing good to offer, it represented a hopeless situation, yet out of the dark streets, a bright light had shown.”