Thursday, 24 December 2009

Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College

Nine Lessons and Carols is a popular format in churches today for their Carol service:
The format was based on an Order drawn up by Edward White Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury but at that time Bishop of Truro, in Cornwall, for use on Christmas Eve (24 December) 1880. Tradition says that he organized a 10 pm service on Christmas Eve in a temporary wooden shed serving as his cathedral and that a key purpose of the service was to keep men out of pubs on Christmas Eve. From wikipedia

THE Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held at Kings College on Christmas Eve 1918. Here is the service booklet with the history, lessons to be read and order of service. From the booklet:

"‘The main theme is the development of the loving purposes of God …’ seen ‘through the windows and the words of the Bible’."

"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."

Jesus walked through whispering wood:
‘I am pale blossom, I am blood berry,
I am rough bark, I am sharp thorn.
This is the place where you will be born.’

Jesus went down to the skirl of the sea:
‘I am long reach, I am fierce comber,
I am keen saltspray, I am spring tide.’
He pushed the cup of the sea aside

And heard the sky which breathed-and-blew:
‘I am the firmament, I am shape-changer,
I cradle and carry and kiss and roar,
I am infinite roof and floor.’

All day he walked, he walked all night,
Then Jesus came to the heart at dawn.
‘Here and now,’ said the heart-in-waiting,
‘This is the place where you must be born.’

from Selected Poems
Enitharmon Press 2001

I am listening and watching on BBC2 right now! It's beautiful.

Here's Angels from the Realms of Glory from 2008:


  1. Merry Christmas! If the spirit of this season could only reach and stay in the heart of all on this earth.
    God Bless

  2. Merry Christmas, Sarah!
    May this year be one of great joy and peace in the Lord.

  3. Merry Christmas to you both xx

  4. I like the poem - I've never seen it before, though I've read some of his children's books. Some have Anglo-Saxon themes, and the poem has a very Anglo-Saxon feel.

    Hope you are enjoying your Christmas weekend :)