Saturday, December 03, 2005

Nine Lessons and Carols

In December, the Sunday and Wednesday services will reflect the texts used by the famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast annually from King’s College, Cambridge. This year’s service was broadcast on the BBC a week ago.

History of the service

THE Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918 at King’s College, Cambridge. 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’. 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.

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 and the name of King’s could not be broadcast for security reasons. Sometime in the early 1930s the BBC began broadcasting the service on overseas programs.

Today, the service has become a quintessential portent of Christmas—one of those things that signal what Christmas is about. The texts reflect a belief that the Old Testament is to be viewed as signaling the coming of Jesus Christ, our Mediator. It begins with Genesis 3:15, the so-called protoevangelium—the first gospel promise, and ends in Bethlehem, with the birth of Messiah.
Let us go even unto Bethlehem to see this thing which has come to pass…

1 comment:

Pastor Tom (PCA) said...

A great service; we will use it on Christmas day - with preaching of course!