Lessons and Carols, Dec. 27, 2015

Title:Lessons and Carols, Dec. 27, 2015

  Lessons and Carols, Dec. 27, 2015  (full size gallery)

Lessons and Carols is traditionally presented on the Sunday after Christmas. Where the Christmas lessons are specific on the birth of Jesus, Lessons and Carols puts the event in perspective covering the earlier Old Testament as well as the New Testament events leading up to Christ’s birth. 

"Lessons and Carols’ takes up one of two Sundays in Christmas. We know the service,  first held after World War I in 1918,  and was planned by Eric Milner-White, who at the age of thirty-four had just been appointed Dean of King’s College. His experience as an army chaplain had convinced him that the Church of England needed more imaginative worship.

He actually reached back to an earlier time for a service structure. The original service was, in fact, adapted from an Order drawn up by E.W. Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury, for use in the wooden shed, which then served as his cathedral in Truro, at 10 pm on Christmas Eve 1880. AC Benson recalled: ‘My father arranged from ancient sources a little service for Christmas Eve – nine carols and nine tiny lessons, which were read by various officers of the Church, beginning with a chorister, and ending, through the different grades, with the Bishop.’

The service structure is simple. Traditionally, "Once in Royal David City" is the opening hymn, following by the lovely Bidding Prayer by the priest. 9 Old and New Testament readings alternate with hymns. The content of the service is flexible though one reading must be from Genesis. There is no sermon or communion. It ends with a closing collect and dismissal. 

This year the 9 readings offer a sweep of the Old and New Testaments with the following stories – Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God from Genesis 3:1-23 (Nancy), Reading from Isaiah 35:1-10 that God will come and save (Alex), the Annuciation to Elizabeth from Luke 1:5-25 about John the Baptist (Mike), the Annunciation to Mary from Luke 1:26-38 (Marilyn), Mary’s visit to Elizabeth from Luke 1:39-56 (Laura), Birth of John the Baptism from Luke 1:57-80 (Helmut), Birth of Jesus from Luke 2 (Eunice), Simeon in the Temple from Luke 2:21-36 (Elizabeth), John’s Prologue from John 1;1-18(Ben).

The opening prayer probably gets to the heart of why it is popular. Indeed the popularity of the service derives more from the words than music. It is a sweeping narrative that  provides the foundation and importance of Christ going back to Genesis. An opening prayer that is used provides a focus:

"We gather here to recall the mystery of our redemption. 
Though sin drew us away from God, he never stopped loving us.
The prophets told of the coming of a Messiah
who would initiate a reign of justice and peace.
This promise was fulfilled in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Let us now reflect with joy on this wondrous mystery."

The bulletin is here with the scriptures and the hymns.

We had 29 at a service, about half as many as Christmas Eve but one more than last year. The Long family was in force with all the grandchildren.

The weather was cloudy, overcast with some rain earlier.  The continual warm weather of recent has caused new growth on the boxwood in the front and butterfly bush on the side. During the service, the sun came out at the beginning of the 4th stanza of "Little Town of Bethlehem – "O holy Child of Bethlehem Descend to us, we pray"  so by the end of the service it appeared to be clearing. After a prayer of dismissal, Brad left us with Bach’s "Prelude and Fugue in C Major"

Leave a Comment