A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols 2004


Our Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918. 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 some carols have been changed and some new ones 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 suggestion 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 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 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 digital recording 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 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.

This little Babe, so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake,
Though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak unarme`d wise
The gates of hell he will surprise.

With tears he fights and wins the field,
His naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries,
His arrows looks of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns Cold and Need,
And feeble flesh his warrior’s steed.

His camp is pitche`d in a stall,
His bulwark but a broken wall;
The crib his trench, hay-stalks his stakes,
Of shepherds he his muster makes;
And thus, as sure his foe to wound,
The angels’ trumps alarum sound.

My soul, with Christ join thou in fight;
Stick to the tents that he hath pight.
Within his crib is surest ward;
This little Babe will be thy guard.
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy,
Then flit not from this heavenly Boy.

Robert Southwell

Organ music before the service:

Prelude & Fugue in D     BWV 532    J. S. Bach

Annunciation     Judith Bingham

Fuga sopra il Magnificat     BWV 733    J. S. Bach

Fantasy on ‘Veni Emmanuel’    Op. 72 No. 5     Kenneth Leighton

Chorale Prelude: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme    BWV 645     J. S. Bach

Noël Suisselouis-claude daquin Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein    BWV 734     J. S. Bach

Incarnation with shepherds dancing     Judith Bingham

Les Bergers   Olivier Messiaen
(from La Nativit´e du Seigneur)

Puer natus est nobis   Olivier Messiaen
(from Livre du Saint Sacrement)

Desseins ´eternels  Olivier Messiaen
(from La Nativit´e du Seigneur)



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


The Acting Dean:     Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmas Eve our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels: in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and with the Magi adore the Child lying in his Mother's arms.
Let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child; and let us make this chapel, dedicated to his pure and lowly Mother, glad with our carols of praise:
But first let us pray for the needs of his whole world; for peace and goodwill over all the earth; for unity and brotherhood within the Church he came to build, within the dominions of our sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth, within this University and City of Cambridge, and in the two royal and religious Foundations of King Henry VI here and at Eton:
And let us at this time remember in his name the poor and the helpless, the cold, the hungry and the oppressed; the sick in body and in mind and them that mourn; the lonely and the unloved; the aged and the little children; and all who know not the loving kindness of God.
Lastly let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom we for evermore are one.
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 Acting 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.


Ding-dong, ding:
Ding-dong, ding-dong:

Up! good Christen folk, and listen
How the merry church bells ring,
And from steeple
Bid good people
Come adore the new-born King:

Tell the story how from glory
God came down at Christmastide,
Bringing gladness,
Chasing sadness,
Show’ring blessings far and wide.

Born of mother, blest o’er other,
Ex Maria Virgine,
In a stable
(’tis no fable),
Christus natus hodie.

Words, G R. Woodward
Melody, Piae Cantiones, 1582
Harmonized, G R Woodward
Oxford University Press


On Christmas night all Christians sing,
To hear the news the angels bring –
News of great joy, news of great mirth,
News of our merciful King’s birth.

Then why should men on earth be so sad,
Since our Redeemer made us glad,
When from our sin he set us free,
All for to gain our liberty?

When sin departs before his grace,
Then life and health come in its place;
Angels and men with joy may sing,
All for to see the new-born King.

All out of darkness we have light,
Which made the angels sing this night:
‘Glory to God and peace to men,
Now and for evermore. Amen.

Sussex Carol
English traditional
Arr., David Willcocks
Oxford University Press




Reader: A Chorister

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



Adam lay ybounden,
Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter
Thought he not too long.

And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took,
As clerkès finden
Written in their book.

Ne had the apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Ne had never our lady
Abeen heavenè queen.

Blessèd be the time
That apple taken was,
Therefore we moun singen,
Deo gracias!

Words, 15th century
Music, Peter Warlock
Oxford University Press


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


Peace be to you and grace from Him
Who freed us from our sins,
Who loved us all and shed his blood
That we might save`d be.
Sing holy, holy to our Lord,
The Lord, Almighty God,
Who was and is and is to come;
Sing holy, holy Lord!
Rejoice in heaven, all ye that dwell therein,
Rejoice on earth, ye saints below,
For Christ is coming soon!
E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come,
And night shall be no more;
They need no light nor lamp nor sun,
For Christ will be their All!

E’en so Lord Jesus, Quickly Come
Words, Revelation 22
Trans., Ruth Manz
Music, Paul Manz
MorningStar Music Publishers



In dulci jubilo
Let us our homage shew;
Our heart’s joy reclineth
In praesepio,
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O!

O Jesu parvule,
I yearn for thee alway;
Listen to my ditty,
O Puer optime,
Have pity on me, pity,
O princeps gloriae!

Trahe me post te!

O Patris caritas,
O Nati lenitas!
Deeply were we stain`ed
Per nostra crimina;
But thou hast for us gain`ed
Coelorum gaudia.
O that we were there!

Ubi sunt gaudia, where,
If that they be not there?
There are angels singing
Nova cantica,
There the bells are ringing
In Regis curia:
O that we were there!

14th century German
Arranged RL. de Pearsall
Edited, Reginald Jacques
Oxford University Press



Reader: The Provost of Eton

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


Lo, in the silent night a child in God is Born
And all is brought again that ere was lost or lorn.
Could but thy soul, O man, become a silent night,
God would be born in thee, and make all things a-right.
Virgo Maria, non est tibi similis,
Orta in mundo inter mulieres,
Florens ut rosa, frangans sicut lilium,
Ora pro nobis Sancta Dei Genitrix.
Sancta Maria.
[Holy Mary, there is no other
woman in the world like you,
Flourishing like the rose, fragrant as a lily,
Pray for us, holy mother of God.
Holy Mary.]

\ The first verse is repeated.

Words, Silesius Angelus
Music, Judith Bingham
Maecenas Music
This carol was commissioned by the College for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols this year.



O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee to-night.

O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy Birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth;
For Christ is born of Mary,
And, gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas Angels
The great glad tidings tell:
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

Words, P. Brooks
Music, English Traditional
Arr., R. Vaughan Williams
Descant, T. Armstrong
Oxford University Press



Reader: A Representative of the City

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


A great and mighty wonder,
A full and holy cure!
The Virgin bears the Infant,
With virgin honour pure.
Repeat the hymn again!
To God on high be glory,
And peace on earth to men!’

The Word becomes incarnate
And yet remains on high!
And cherubim sing anthems
To shepherds from the sky.

While thus they sing your monarch,
Those bright angelic bands,
Rejoice, ye vales and mountains,
Ye oceans clap your hands.

Since all he comes to ransom,
By all be he adored,
The Infant born in Bethl’em
The Saviour and the Lord.

Words, St Germanus
Tr., J. M. Neale
Music, Michael Praetorius
Arr., James Whitbourn
Chester Music




A spotless Rose is blowing,
Sprung from a tender root,
Of ancient seers’ foreshowing,
Of Jesse promised fruit;
Its fairest bud unfolds to light
And in the dark midnight,
Amid the winter cold,
A spotless Rose unfolds.

The Rose which I am singing,
Whereof Isaiah said,
Is from its sweet root springing,
In Mary, purest Maid;
For, through our God’s great love and might,
And in the dark midnight,
Amid the winter cold,
The blesse`d Babe she bare.

Words, 15th Century German
Trans., C. Winkworth
Music, Philip Ledger
Encore Publications

This carol was composed for King’s College Choir in 2002.




Reader: The Director of Music

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


Joseph was an old man
and an old man was he,
When he wedded Mary,
in the land of Galilee.

Joseph and Mary walked
through an orchard good,
Where was cherries and berries,
so red as any blood.

O then bespoke Mary,
so meek and oh, so mild:
‘Pluck me one cherry, Joseph,
for I am with child.’

O then bespoke Joseph,
with words most unkind:
‘Let him pluck thee a cherry
that brought thee with child.’

O then bespoke the baby,
within his mother’s womb:
‘Bow down then the tallest tree,
for my mother to have some.’

Then bowed down the highest tree
unto his mother’s hand;
Then she cried, ‘See, Joseph,
I have cherries at command.’

O then bespoke Joseph:
‘I have done Mary wrong;
But cheer up, my dearest,
and be ye not cast down.’

Then Mary plucked a cherry,
as red as any blood,
Then Mary she went homewards
all with her heavy load.

The Cherry Tree Carol
Words and music, English Traditional
Arr., Stephen Cleobury
Oxford University Press




Softly a light is stealing,
Sweetly a maiden sings,
Ever wakeful, ever wistful.
Watching faithfully, thankfully, tenderly
Her King of kings.

My soul doth magnify the Lord:
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

Mary her song to Jesus
Softly, serenely sings:
‘I will love you, I will serve you,
May my lullaby glorify, magnify
My King of kings.’

Mary’s Magnificat
Words and music, Andrew Carter
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



Sleep, baby, sleep, the mother sings:
Heav’n’s angels kneel and fold their wings:
with swathes of scented hay thy bed,
By Mary’s hand at eve was spread.
Sleep, baby, sleep.

At midnight came the shepherds,
They whom seraphs wakened by the way;
And three kings from the east afar
Ere dawn came guided by the star.

But thou who liest slumb’ring there
Art King of kings, earth, ocean, air.
‘Sleep, baby, sleep! the shepherds sing:
Thro’ heav’n, thro’ earth, hosannas ring.

Words, J. A. Symonds
Music, Richard Lloyd
K. Mayhew Ltd.



I wonder as I wander, out under the sky,
how Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
for poor on’ry people like you and like I.
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus, ’twas in a cow’s stall,
with wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from the heavens a star’s light did fall,
and promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
a star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
or all of God’s angels in heaven for to sing,
he surely could have it, ’cause he was the King.

Appalachian Traditional
Music, Carl Rutti
Escorial Edition




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


Starry night o’er Bethlehem,
In a stable watchful eyes,
Waiting gently, waiting calmly,
Waiting for a mother’s cries.

Alleluia, alleluia, rosa sine spina,
Alleluia, alleluia, gratia divina.

Holy maid in Bethlehem,
Strong and trusting, so serene.
Angel voices, soaring upwards,
Greet the birth to this fair queen.

Alleluia, alleluia, velut maris stella,
Alleluia, alleluia, parens et puella.

Shepherds near to Bethlehem
See the angels fill the sky.
Hasten now towards the wonder,
Find the king from heaven on high.

Alleluia, alleluia, O lux beatissima,
Alleluia, alleluia, cordis intimissima.

Holy child in Bethlehem,
Cradled in a manger poor.
Star above proclaims the story,
Source of hope for evermore.

Alleluia, alleluia, O pater pauperum,
Alleluia, alleluia, pace in aeternum.

Words, Anne Willcocks
Music, David Willcoks
Oxford University Press

This Carol has been specially written for this service.




God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born upon this day,
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray:
O tidings of comfort and joy.

From God our heavenly Father
A blessèd angel came,
And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same,
How that inBethlehem was born:
The Son of God by name:
All:   O tidings of comfort and joy.

All:   The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoicèd much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm, and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway
This blessèd Babe to find:
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Choir:   But when to Bethlehem they came,
Whereat this infant lay,
They found him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His mother Mary kneeling
Unto the Lord did pray:
All:   O tidings of comfort and joy.

All:     Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All others doth deface:
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Words, English Traditional
Arranged, David Willcocks
Oxford University Press


Reader: A Former 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


Three kings from Persian lands afar
To Jordan follow the pointing star:
And this the quest of the travellers three,
Where the new-born King of the Jews may be.
Full royal gifts they bear for the King;
Gold, incense, myrrh are their offering.

The star shines out with a steadfast ray;
The kings to Bethlehem make their way,
And there in worship they bend the knee,
As Mary’s child in her lap they see;
Their royal gifts they show to the King;
Gold, incense, myrrh are their offering.

Thou child of man, lo, to Bethlehem
The kings are travelling, travel with them!
The star of mercy, the star of grace,
Shall lead thy heart to its resting-place.
Gold, incense, myrrh thou canst not bring;
Offer thy heart to the infant King.

Chorale (sung at the same time as the above).

How brightly shines the morning star!
With grace and truth from heaven afar
Our Jesse tree now bloweth.
Of Jacob’s stem and David’s line,
For thee, my Bridegroom, King divine,
My soul with love o’erfloweth.
Thy word, Jesu,
Inly feeds us,
Rightly leads us,
Life bestowing.
Praise, O praise, such love o’erflowing.

Words, P. Cornelius and P. Nicolai
Trans., H. N. Bate
Music, Peter Cornelius
Arr., Ivor Atkins
Oxford University Press


Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons ici.
D´evotes gens, crions `a Dieu merci!
Chantons Noël pour le roi nouvelet.
Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons ici.

L’ange disait: ‘Pasteurs, partez d’ici,
L’ˆame en repos et le coeur r´ejoui;
En Bethl´eem trouverez l’agnelet.’
Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons ici.

En Bethl´eem, ´etant tous r´eunis,
Trouvent l’enfant, Joseph, Marie aussi.
La cr`eche ´etait au lieu d’un bercelet,
Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons ici.

Bientˆot les rois, par l’´etoile ´eclaircis,
De l’Orient dont ils ´etaient sortis,
A Bethl´eem vinrent un matinet.
Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons ici.

Voici mon Dieu, mon Sauveur J´esus Christ,
Par qui sera le prodige accompli
De nous sauver par son sang vermeillet!
Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons ici.


Nowelling anew, this carol let us sing.
To all who pray may God His Mercy bring!
Sing we Nowel for our King newly-born.
Nowelling anew, this carol let us sing.

God’s angel spoke: ‘You shepherds, go and sing,
In joy and peace your heart and soul to bring
To Bethlehem, where God’s own Lamb is born.’
Nowelling anew, this carol let us sing.

At Bethlehem, where all were gathering,
They stood around his manger worshipping,
And found the Babe of God and Mary born.
Nowelling anew, this carol let us sing.

Right soon the Kings, by starlight entering,
Came from the East to make their offering,
Reached Bethlehem one early winter’s morn.
Nowelling anew, this carol let us sing.

Here lies my Lord, my Saviour Christ the King,
His promise now to us accomplishing,
With his red blood to save us he was born!
Nowelling anew, this carol let us sing.


French Traditional
Trans., Gerald Peacocke
Arr., Stephen Jackson




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


In verses 1 and 2 the first two lines of the refrain are sung by upper voices only.

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 Acting Dean:     The Lord be with you.

All:     And with thy spirit.

The Acting 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 he 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
Toccata    Op. 104    Joseph Jongen

After the service a retiring collection is taken for King's College Chapel Foundation.

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