Introduction to 2013 Lessons and Carols at King’s College

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918.  It was planned by Eric Milner-White, who, at the age of the thirty-four, had just been appointed Dean of King’s after experience as an Army chaplain which convinced him that the Church of England needed more imaginative worship. (He devised the College’s Advent Carol Service in 1934, and was a liturgical pioneer and authority during his twenty-two years as Dean of York.) The music was then directed by Arthur Henry Mann, Organist 1876–1929. The choir included sixteen trebles as laid down in King Henry VI’s statutes, but until 1927 the men’s voices were provided partly by Choral Scholars and partly by older Lay Clerks, and not, as now, by fourteen undergraduates.

A revision of the Order of Service was made in 1919, involving rearrangement of the lessons, and from that date the service has always begun with the hymn ‘Once in royal David’s city’. In almost every year the choice of carols has varied, and some new ones have been introduced by successive Organists: Arthur Henry Mann; Boris Ord, 1929–57; Harold Darke (his substitute during the war), 1940–45; Sir David Willcocks, 1957–73;   Sir Philip Ledger, 1974–82 and, from 1982, Stephen Cleobury. The backbone of the service, the lessons and the prayers, has remained virtually unchanged. 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 p.m. on Christmas Eve 1880.

A. C. 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 idea had come from G. H. S. Walpole, later Bishop of Edinburgh.  Almost immediately other churches adapted the service for their own use.  A wider frame began to grow when the service was first broadcast in 1928 and, with the exception of 1930, it has been broadcast annually, even during the Second World War, when the ancient glass (and also all heat) had been removed from the Chapel.

Sometime in the early 1930s the BBC began broadcasting the service on overseas programmes. It is estimated that there are millions of listeners worldwide, including those to Radio Four in the United Kingdom. In recent years it has become the practice to broadcast a recording of the service on Christmas Day on Radio Three, and since 1963 a shorter service has been filmed periodically for television. Recordings of carols by Decca and EMI have also served to spread its fame. In these and other ways the service has become public property.

From time to time the College receives copies of services held, for example, in the West Indies or the Far East and these show how widely the tradition has spread. The broadcasts, too, have become part of Christmas for many far from Cambridge. One correspondent writes that he heard the service in a tent on the foothills of Everest; another, in the desert. Many listen at home, busy about their own preparations for Christmas. Visitors from all over the world are heard to identify the Chapel as ‘the place where the Carols are sung’.

Wherever the service is heard and however it is adapted, whether the music is provided by choir or congregation, the pattern and strength of the service, as Dean Milner-White pointed out, derive from the lessons and not the music. ‘The main theme is the development of the loving purposes of God …’ seen ‘through the windows and the words of the Bible’. Local interests appear, as they do here, in the Bidding Prayer; and personal circumstances give point to different parts of the service. Many of those who took part in the first service must have recalled those killed in the Great War when it came to the famous passage ‘all those who rejoice with us, but on another shore and in a greater light’. The centre of the service is still found by those who ‘go in heart and mind’ and who consent to follow where the story leads.


Awake, glad heart! get up and Sing,
It is the Birth-day of thy King,
Awake! awake!
The Sun doth shake
Light from his locks, and all the way
Breathing Perfumes, doth spice the day

Awake, awake! hark, how the wood rings,
Winds whisper, and the busy springs
A concert make;
Awake! awake!
Man is their high-priest, and should rise
To offer up the sacrifice.

I would I were some Bird, or Star,
Fluttering in woods, or lifted far
Above this Inn
And Road of sin!
Then either Star, or Bird, should be
Shining, or singing still to thee.

I would I had in my best part
Fit Rooms for thee! or that my heart
Were so clean as
Thy manger was!
But I am all filth, and obscene,
Yet, if thou wilt, thou canst make clean.

Sweet Jesu! Will then; Let no more
This Leper haunt, and soil thy door,
Cure him, Ease him
O release him!
And let once more by mystic birth
The Lord of life be born on Earth.

Christ’s Nativity   Henry Vaughn

The Choir of King's College, Cambridge

Organ music before the service:  

Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme                 bwv 645               J. S. Bach
Berceuse sur deux notes qui cornent       awv 5                    Alain
Prelude and Fugue in b                                   bwv 544               J. S. Bach
Two Christmas Preludes for the Organ    Op. 35                    Buck
In dulci jubilo
The holly and the ivy
Canonic variations on ‘Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her’       bwv 769a        J. S. Bach

or Alternatively:



Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And his shelter was a stable,
And his cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.

And through all his wondrous childhood
He would honour and obey,
Love, and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms he lay;
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as he.

For he is our childhood’s pattern,
Day by day like us he grew,
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us he knew;
And he feeleth for our sadness,
And he shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see him,
Through his own redeeming love,
For that child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above;
And he leads his children on
To the place where he is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see him; but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
When like stars his children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

Words, C. F. Alexander
Melody, H. J. Gauntlett
Harmonised, H. J. Gauntlett and A. H. Mann
Descant, Stephen Cleobury
Encore Publications


Beloved in Christ, we gather this Christmas Eve to hear the message of Gabriel, to journey with the Shepherds and with the Magi to kneel in awe and adoration before the Gift of the Light of the World. In words and in music we seek to understand and to marvel at the wonder of the Incarnation.

As we meet to we offer our praises and our prayers to the Christ Child, let us pray first for the needs of the world–for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, for the persecuted and for the bereaved. Let us too remember all those who we have loved but see no longer, those whose lives have influenced and enriched our own and who now rejoice with us but on another shore and with a greater understanding.

We pray that we may this night be so filled with the love of God that our lives may reflect the light of his glory and of his infinite compassion.

These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the throne of heaven, in the words which Christ himself hath taught us:  Our Father…

All:     Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.

The  Dean:     The Almighty God bless us with his grace: Christ give us the joys of everlasting life: and unto the fellowship of the citizens above may the King of Angels bring us all.

All:     Amen.

CAROL:    Ding Dong Merrily on High

Ding! dong! merrily on high
In heaven the bells are ringing!
Ding! dong! verily the sky
Is riven with Angels singing!
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis.

E’en so here below, below,
Let steeple bells be swungen,
And “I-o, i-o, i-o!”
By priest and people sungen:
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis.

Pray you, dutifully prime
Your matin chime, ye ringers;
May you beautifully rime
Your evetime song, ye singers:
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis.

Words, George Ratcliffe Woodward
Music, xvi Century French
Arranged, Malcolm Williamson


God tells sinful Adam that he has lost the life of Paradise and that his seed will bruise the serpent’s head.     Genesis 3

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Thanks be to God


The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of Nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ, the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell
The glory which Inow can see
In Jesus Christ, the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought;
I missed of all, but now I see,
’Tis found in Christ, the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ, the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ, the apple tree.

Jesus Christ, The Apple Tree
Words, anon., Collection of Joshua Smith,
New Hampshire, 1784
Music, Elizabeth Poston
Cambridge University Press


Hear the voice of the Bard,
Who present, past, and future, sees;
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word
That walk’d among the ancient trees;
Calling the lapsèd soul,
And weeping in the evening dew;
That might control
The starry pole,
And fallen, fallen light renew!

‘O Earth, O Earth, return!
Arise from out the dewy grass!
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumbrous mass.
‘Turn away no more;
Why wilt thou turn away?
The starry floor,
The watery shore,
Is given thee till the break of day.’

Words, William Blake
Music, Thea Musgrave


Reader: A Choral Scholar

God promises to faithful Abraham that in his seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.     Genesis 22

And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

Thanks be to God


Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, Love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Words, Christina Rossetti
Music, Reginald Owen Morris
arranged, Stephen Cleobury
Peters Edition


Joy to the world! the Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
And heav’n and nature sing!

Joy to the earth! the Saviour reigns:
Let men their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground:
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness
And wonders of his love.

Words, Isaac Watts
Music, William Holford
arranged, Hugh Keyte and Andrew  Parrott
Oxford University Press


The prophet foretells the coming of the Saviour.     Isaiah 9

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Thanks be to God


Jerusalem rejos for joy:
Jesus, the sterneÉ of most bewte
in thee is rissin as richtous royÊ,
fro dirkness to illumyne thee.
With glorius sound of angell gle
thy prince is borne in Baithlem
quhilkË sall thee mak of thraldome fre.
Illuminare Jerusalem.

With angellis licht in legionis
thou art illumynit all about.
Thre kingis of strenge regionis
to thee ar cumin with lusty rout,
all drest with dyamantis [but dout],
reverst with gold in every hem,
sounding attonisÌ with a schout,

The regeand tirrant that in thee rang,
Herod, is exilit and his ofspring,
The land of Juda that jositÍ wrang,
and rissin is now thy richtous king.
So he so mychtie is and dingÎ,
quhenÏ men his glorius name dois nem,
hevin erd and hell makis inclyning.
illuminare jerusalem

Words, xv century anon.
from Bannatyne ms V.27v–28r
edited, John MacQueen
Music, Judith Weir


Unto us is born a Son,
King of quires supernal:
See on earth his life begun,
Of lords the Lord eternal.

All Christ, from heaven descending low,
Comes on earth a stranger;
Ox and ass their owner know,
Becradled in the manger.

All This did Herod sore aVray,
And grievously bewilder,
So he gave the word to slay,
And slew the little childer.


Of his love and mercy mild
This the Christmas story;
And O that Mary’s gentle child
Might lead us up to glory.

O and A, and A and O,
Cum cantibus in choro,
Let our merry organ go,
Benedicamus Domino.

Words, xv century Latin
translated, George Ratcliffe Woodward
Music, piae cantiones, 1582
arranged, David Willcocks
Oxford University Press


Reader: a representative of the City of Cambridge

The peace that Christ will bring is foreshown.     Isaiah 11

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord. With righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

Thanks be to God


Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee:
He is callèd by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and he is mild,
He became a little child;
I, a child, and thou a lamb,
We are callèd by his name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

The Lamb
Words, William Blake
Music, John Tavener
Chester Music


Here we bring new water from the well so clear,
For to worship God with, this happy new Year.
Sing levy dew, sing levy dew, the water and the wine;
The seven bright gold wires and the bugles that do shine.

Sing reign of Fair Maid, with gold upon her toe,
Open you the West Door, and turn the Old Year go.
Sing levy dew, sing levy dew, the water and the wine;
The seven bright gold wires and the bugles that do shine.

Sing reign of Fair Maid, with gold upon her chin,
Open you the East Door, and let the New Year in.
Sing levy dew, sing levy dew, the water and the wine;
The seven bright gold wires and the bugles that do shine.

Friday Afternoons
Words, anon.
Music, Benjamin Britten
Oxford University Press


Reader:   A representative of our sister college at Eton

The angel Gabriel salutes the Blessed Virgin Mary.     St Luke 1

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Thanks be to God


Angelus ad virginem                                         Ad haec virgo nobilis
Subintrans in conclave,                                   Respondens inquit ei:
Virginis formidinem                                          ‘Ancilla sum humilis
Demulcens, inquit, ‘Ave!                                  Omnipotentis Dei.
Ave, regina virginum;                                        Tibi coelesti nuntio,
Coeli terraeque Dominum                                Tanti secreti conscio,
Conipies                                                                    Consentiens,
Et paries                                                                    Et cupiens
Intacta                                                                       Videre
Salutem hominum;                                               Factum quod audio;
Tu porta coeli facta,                                             Parata sum parere,
Medela Criminum.’                                               Dei consilio.’

‘Quomodo conciperem                                       Eia mater Domini,
Quae virum non cognovi?                                 Quae pacem reddidisti
Qualiter infringerem                                            Angelis et homini,
Quod firma mente vovi?’                                   Cum Christum genuisti;
‘Spiritus Sancti gratia                                          Tuum exora filium
Perficiet haec omnia;                                          Ut se nobis propitium
Ne timeas,                                                                Exhibeat,
Sed gaudeas,                                                           Et deleat
Secura                                                                        Peccata:
Quod castimonia                                                   Praestans auxilium
Manebit in te pura                                                Vita frui beata
Dei potentia.’                                                          Post hoc exilium

The angel softly entered the Virgin’s chamber, and allaying her
fear, said, ‘Hail, queen of virgins; thou shalt conceive the Lord
of heaven and earth and give virgin birth to mankind’s Saviour;
thou art made the portal of heaven, the balm of our sins.’

‘How shall I conceive, who have known no man? How shall I
break my mind’s steady vow?’ ‘The grace of the Holy Spirit shall
accomplish all; fear thou not, but rejoice and be sure that thy chaste
purity will abide, through God’s power.’

The noble virgin said in answer to him. I am the lowly handmaiden
of the all powerful God My will is thine, heavenly messenger
and keeper of such secrets. What I hear, I long to see completed,
I am ready to give birth, according to God’s plan.’

Ah, mother of our Lord, who restored peace to angels and man
when thou conceivedst Christ, beseech thy Son, that he may show
Himself merciful unto us and remove our sins. Thou providest help
to enjoy the blessed life after this exile.

Words, xiii Century
translated, Christopher Brunelle
Music, xiv century
Arr., Stephen Cleobury
Oxford University Press


Reader: A Member of Staff

St Luke tells of the birth of Jesus.     St Luke 2

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Thanks be to God


Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love thee Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
And stay by my side until morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay
Close by me for ever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven, to live with thee there.

Words, xix century English
Music, William Kirkpatrick
arranged, David Willcocks
Oxford University Press


A boy was born in Bethlehem;
Rejoice for that, Jerusalem!

He let himself a servant be,
That all mankind he might set free:

Then praise the Word of God who came
To dwell within a human frame:

Words, xvi century German
translated, Percy Dearmer
Music, Benjamin Britten
Oxford University Press


Reader: A Fellow

The shepherds go to the manger.     St Luke 2

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

Thanks be to God


We stood on the hills, Lady,
Our day’s work done,
Watching the frosted meadows
That winter had won.

The evening was calm, Lady,
The air so still,
Silence more lovely than music
Folded the hill.

There was a star, Lady,
Shone in the night,
Larger than Venus it was
And bright, so bright.

Oh, a voice from the sky, Lady,
It seemed to us then,
Telling of God being born
In the world of men.

And so we have come, Lady,
Our day’s work done,
Our love, our hopes, ourselves
We give to your son.

The Shepherd’s Carol
Words, anon.
Music, bob chilcott
Oxford University Press

This Carol was composed for the choir of King’s College for ‘Carols from King’s’ in 2000


While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.

‘Fear not,’ said he (for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind);
‘Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.’

‘To you in David’s town this day
Is born of David’s line
A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign:’

‘The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid.’

Thus spake the Seraph; and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song:

‘All glory be to God on high,
And to the earth be peace;
Goodwill henceforth from heaven to men
Begin and never cease.’

Words, Nahum Tate
Music, Este’s Psalter, 1592
Descant, Stephen Cleobury


Reader: The Vice-Provost

The wise men are led by the star to Jesus.     St Matthew 2

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Thanks be to God


A little child there is y-born,
Eia, eia, susanni, susanni, susanni.
And he sprang out of Jesse’s thorn,
Alleluya, alleluya.
To save us all that were forlorn.

Now Jesus is the childes name,
And Mary mild she is his dame,
And so our sorrow’s turned to game.

It fell upon the high midnight.
The stars they shone both fair and bright.
The angels sang with all their might.

Three Kings there came with their presents,
Of gold and myrrh and frankincense,
As clerkès sing in their sequence.

Now sit we down upon our knee,
And pray we to the Trinity,
Our help and succour for to be.

Words, xiv century German
Music, Richard Rodney Bennett
Universal Edition

Susanni:  (Loosely) ‘Sleep, child!’


I saw three ships come sailing in,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day,
I saw three ships come sailing in,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three?…
Our Saviour Christ and his lady,…
Pray, whither sailed those ships all three?…
O, they sailed into Bethlehem,…
And all the bells on earth shall ring,…
And all the angels in heav’n shall sing,…
And all the souls on earth shall sing,…

Then let us all rejoice amain!
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day,
Then let us all rejoice amain!
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Words and Music, English Traditional
Arranged, Simon Preston


Reader: the Provost

St John unfolds the great mystery of the Incarnation.     St John 1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light. That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Thanks be to God


O come, all ye faithful,

Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him,
Born the King of Angels.

O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Very God,
Begotten, not created.

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
‘Glory to God
In the highest’.

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning,
Jesu, to thee be glory given;
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing.

Adeste Fideles
Words translated, F. Oakeley
Melody, J F. Wade
Arranged, Stephen Cleobury
Encore Publications


The Dean:     The Lord be with you.

All:     And with thy spirit.

The Dean:     Let us pray.

O God, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thy only son, Jesus Christ: Grant that as we joyfully receive him for our redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him, when he shall come to be our judge; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

All:     Amen.

The Acting Dean:     May Christ, who by his Incarnation gathered into one things earthly and heavenly, grant you the fullness of inward peace and goodwill; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always.

All:     Amen.


Hark! the herald angels sing:
‘Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!’
Joyful, all ye nations rise!
Join the triumph of the skies!
With the angelic host proclaim:
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!’

    Hark! the herald angels sing:
‘Glory to the new-born King!’

Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see!
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell:
Jesus, our Emmanuel!

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Words, C. Wesley and G. Whitefield
Music, J. L. F. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Descant, Stephen Cleobury
Encore Publications

Organ music after the service:

In Dulci Jubilo                                         bwv 729                      J. S. Bach

from La Nativité du Seigneur                                                    Messiaen
Dieu parmi nous


The 2013 commissioned carol is a setting of William Blake’s text ‘Hear the voice of the Bard’, set to music by Thea Musgrave. The composer said about the work:

‘I was drawn to this poem because it reaches out for the larger beauty and mystery of our existence on earth independent of specific religious affiliation. Whether it be the natural rhythm of the seasons or the daily renewal of light, or the beauty and breadth of stars and sky, Blake finds our ‘lapsed’ human souls in need of the refreshment and constancy of nature’s magical cycles – and also of the artist’s role in the musical voice of the Bard.’

Hear the voice of the Bard,
Who present, past, and future, sees;
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word
That walked among the ancient trees;
Calling the lapsed soul,
And weeping in the evening dew;
That might control
The starry pole,
And fallen, fallen light renew!
‘O Earth, O Earth, return!
Arise from out the dewy grass!
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumbrous mass.
‘Turn away no more;
Why wilt thou turn away?
The starry floor,
The watery shore,
Is given thee till the break of day.’

William Blake (1757 – 1827)